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Full text of "Vietnamese commandos : hearing before the Select Committee on Intelligence of the United States Senate, One Hundred Fourth Congress, second session ... Wednesday, June 19, 1996"

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Y  4.  IN  8/19:  S.  HRG.  104-820 

Uietnanese  Connandosi    S.   Hrg.   104-8... 










WEDNESDAY,  JUNE  19,  1996 

Printed  for  the  use  of  the  Select  Committee  on  Intelligence 

37-433  WASHINGTON  :  1997 

For  sale  by  the  U.S.  Government  Printing  Office 
Superintendent  of  Documents,  Congressional  Sales  Office,  Washington,  DC  20402 
ISBN  0-16-054363-0 

V^y\  S.  Hrg.  104-820 


Y  4.  IN  8/19:  S.  HRG.  104-820 

Vietnanese  Connandosi   S.   Hrg.   104-8... 










WEDNESDAY,  JUNE  19,  1996 

Printed  for  the  use  of  the  Select  Committee  on  Intelligence 

37^33  WASHINGTON  :  1997 

For  sale  by  the  U.S.  Government  Printing  Office 
Superintendent  of  Documents,  Congressional  Sales  Office,  Washington,  DC  20402 
ISBN  0-16-054363-0 

[Established  by  S.  Res.  400,  94th  Cong.,  2d  Sess] 

ARLEN  SPECTER,  Pennsylvania,  Chairman 
J.  ROBERT  KERREY,  Nebraska,  Vice  Chairman 
RICHARD  G.  LUGAR,  Indiana  JOHN  GLENN,  Ohio 

RICHARD  C.  SHELBY,  Alabama  RICHARD  H.  BRYAN,  Nevada 

MIKE  DeWINE,  Ohio  BOB  GRAHAM,  Florida 

JON  KYL,  Arizona  JOHN  F.  KERRY,  Massachusetts 

JAMES  M.  INHOFE,  Oklahoma  MAX  BAUCUS,  Montana 


WILLIAM  S.  COHEN,  Maine  CHARLES  S.  ROBB,  Virginia 

HANK  BROWN,  Colorado 

BOB  DOLE,  Kansas,  Ex  Officio 
THOMAS  A  DASCHLE,  South  Dakota,  Ex  Officio 

Charles  Battaglia,  Staff  Director 

Christopher  C.  Straub,  Minority  Staff  Director 

Kathleen  P.  McGhee,  Chief  Clerk 



Hearing  held  in  Washington,  DC: 

Wednesday,  June  19,  1996 1 

Statement  of: 

DeRosa,  Mary,  Office  of  the  General  Counsel,  Department  of  Defense  30 

Kerrey,  Hon.  J.  Robert,  a  U.S.  Senator  from  the  State  of  Nebraska  2 

Kerry,  Hon.  John  F.,  a  U.S.  Senator  from  the  Commonwealth  of  Massa- 
chusetts    3 

Singlaub,     Major     General    John,     USA    (Ret),     Former     Commander, 


Smith,  Jeffrey,  General  Counsel,  Central  Intelligence  Agency  29 

Son,  Ha  Van,  Former  Commando  11 

Specter,  Hon.  Arlen,  a  U.S.  Senator  from  the  Commonwealth  of  Penn- 
sylvania    1 

Tourison,  Sedgwick,  Author,  "Secret  Army,  Secret  War" 7 

Supplemental  material,  letters,  articles,  etc.: 

Article,  "McNamara's  Covert  War:  The  Zenith  of  Deception"  by  Sedgwick 

Tourison  31 



WEDNESDAY,  JUNE  19,  1996 

U.S.  Senate, 
Select  Committee  on  Intelligence, 

Washington,  DC. 

The  Select  Committee  met,  pursuant  to  notice,  at  9:08  a.m.,  in 
Room  SD-106,  Dirksen  Senate  Office  Building,  the  Honorable 
Arlen  Specter,  Chairman  of  the  Committee,  presiding. 

Present:  Senators  Specter,  Kerrey  of  Nebraska,  and  Kerry  of 
Massachusetts,  Robb. 

Also  Present:  Charles  Battaglia,  Staff  Director;  Chris  Straub,  Mi- 
nority Staff  Director;  Suzanne  Spaulding,  Chief  Counsel;  and  Kath- 
leen McGhee,  Chief  Clerk. 

Chairman  SPECTER.  This  morning  the  Senate  Select  Committee 
on  Intelligence  will  proceed  to  a  hearing  on  an  issue  involving  the 
United  States'  treatment  of  Vietnamese  who  were  called  upon  to 
assist  our  country  in  the  Vietnam  War,  in  a  tale  which,  on  its  face, 
and  from  all  appearances  is  a  genuinely  incredible  story  of  callous, 
inhumane,  and  really,  barbaric  treatment  by  the  United  States,  if 
the  facts  which  appear  to  be  true  are  verified  during  the  course  of 
these  hearings. 

The  underlying  situation  involved  a  process  which  began  back  in 
1958,  when  South  Vietnamese  President  Ngo  Dinh  Diem  asked  the 
United  States  for  assistance  in  conducting  covert  operations 
against  Communist  controlled  areas  in  the  north.  In  the  course  of 
time,  approximately  500  commandos  infiltrated,  mostly  in  teams, 
into  North  Vietnam,  starting  in  1961  and  lasting  for  the  better  part 
of  a  decade.  Many  were  killed  shortly  after  their  entry  into  the 
process.  Most  were  captured,  according  to  reports  which  we  have 
by  North  Vietnam,  tried  for  treason,  and  then  imprisoned. 

The  reports  suggest — really  show  that  the  United  States  wrote 
them  off  systematically,  crossing  their  names  off  of  the  ledgers, 
making  a  nominal  payment  of  $300  for  death  claims  to  their  fami- 
lies. Took  no  action  during  the  Paris  peace  talks  to  secure  their 
freedom,  an  absolutely  incredible  situation,  if  true.  And  then  for 
decades  has  covered  up  these  atrocities  with  classified  documents, 
only  recently  declassified. 

The  saga  continues  to  this  moment,  when  in  the  Court  of  Claims, 
the  United  States  government  is  denying  viability  on  a  contention 
that  these  are  secret  agreements  and  therefore  are  not  justifiable 
in  court.  A  fancy  word  which  says  you  can't  get  relief  in  a  court 
of  law. 

On  their  face  they  appear  to  me  to  be  enforceable  obligations 
plus.  Any  concept  of  secrecy  to  condone  this  kind  of  conduct  would 


be  against  all  tenets  of  public  policy  as  I  understand  it  in  the  law. 
And  the  secrecy  provisions  would  not  be  enforceable. 

Only  yesterday,  after  the  scheduling  of  this  hearing,  have  we  had 
any  official  word  from  the  CIA.  In  a  letter  received  dated  June  18, 
from  Acting  Director  George  Tenet,  saying  that  our  position  is  that 
their  claims  are  not  justifiable  and  are  in  fact  in  the  wrong  forum. 
There  is  a  concession,  quote  "whether  or  not  the  mission  of  these 
commandos  was  a  mistake  is  not  relevant  to  our  moral  obligations 
to  them  now." 

It's  a  little  hard  to  understand  how  in  one  paragraph  the  Acting 
Director  of  the  CIA  can  talk  about  moral  obligations  and  then  talk 
about  procedures  to  deny  payment,  leaving  the  matter  for  the  Con- 
gress. And  I  think  the  Congress  can  handle  the  issue,  but  it  is  real- 
ly shocking  to  me,  that  the  Department  of  Justice,  the  Department 
of  Defense  and  the  CIA  would  take  a  position  in  court  on  a  motion 
to  dismiss  that  these  are  not  valid  claims. 

It  really  hardly  ought  to  be  up  to  the  oversight  Committees  of 
Congress  and  the  Congress  itself  to  cure  these  palpable,  egregious 
injustices.  And  this  Committee  intends  to  get  to  the  bottom  of  it. 
And  we  are  proceeding  with  this  hearing  today  and  whatever  other 
follow-up  hearings  may  be  necessary  to  cleanse  the  record  and 
purge  these  injustices. 

I  now  turn  to  our  distinguished  Vice  Chairman,  Senator  Robert 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  Thank  you  very  much,  Mr.  Chairman.  I 
must  say  at  the  outset,  I  don't  anticipate  this  hearing  with  great 
pleasure.  The  Vietnam  War  was  one  of  the  most  painful  episodes 
in  our  nation's  history.  As  we  are  going  to  be  reminded  today,  it 
was  even  more  painful  for  the  Vietnamese  than  it  was  for  us.  Even 
in  fighting  for  the  freedom  of  Vietnamese,  some  Americans  did 
things  that  increased  their  suffering.  And  the  betrayal  of  these 
commandos  appears  to  be  such  a  case. 

Time  performs  a  healing  function  by  dimming  the  memory  of 
pain.  And  when  we  choose  to  research  events  of  the  war  that  oc- 
curred 30  and  more  years  ago  we  are  reopening  scar  tissue  and 
that  hurts. 

If  in  doing  so  we  can  help  right  a  wrong  that  has  been  done  to 
people  who  took  great  risk  for  the  freedom  of  their  country,  then 
let  us  do  it.  I  am  cosponsor  of  Senator  John  Kerry's  bill  to  pay  the 
claim  of  those  Vietnamese  operatives.  In  my  view,  the  United 
States  simply  owes  them  the  money.  I  did  not  require  a  hearing, 
however,  for  me  to  reach  that  conclusion.  But  I  expect  what  I  hear 
today  will  make  me  even  more  firm  in  my  view  that  these  men 
were  badly  misused.  I  also  recognize  the  difficulty  of  assembling 
witnesses  who  can  talk  with  authority  about  the  events  of  30  years 

Mr.  Chairman,  let  me  also  publicly  note  that  while  this  operation 
reportedly  began  as  a  CIA  operation,  news  articles  say  it  was  hand- 
ed over  to  the  Defense  Department  in  1964.  If  we  allocate  blame 
this  morning  for  the  abuse  these  men  suffered,  I  hope  we  will  bear 
in  mind  when  the  abuses  occurred. 

I  look  forward  to  the  witnesses. 

Chairman  Specter.  Thank  you  very  much  Senator  Kerrey. 

We  now  welcome  our  distinguished  colleague,  Senator  John 
Kerry  of  Massachusetts,  who  brings  a  special  credibility  to  this 
issue.  Pardon  me,  Senator  Robb  would  you  like  to  make  an  opening 

Senator  Robb.  Mr.  Chairman,  I  have  no  opening  comment.  I'd 
share  the  sentiments  of  the  Chairman  and  the  Vice  Chairman  of 
the  Committee  that  this  revelation  is  truly  appalling  and  I  am 
pleased  to  be  a  cosponsor  of  the  amendment  that  the  distinguished 
Senator  from  Massachusetts  is  offering  and  will  be  testifying  to 
this  morning. 

Chairman  SPECTER.  One  of  the  background  factors  is  that  there 
is  some  suggestion  that  this  situation  is  not  isolated.  And  one  real- 
ly wonders  from  time  to  time  what  is  present  in  these  classified 
documents.  The  reason  for  classification  secrecy  has  long  since  ex- 
pired. And  what  other  horrendous  injustices  are  buried  under  a  top 
secret  classification,  when  they  ought  to  be  brought  to  light  and 
restitution  made  if  not  more. 

We  now  turn  to  our  distinguished  colleague  from  Massachusetts, 
Senator  John  Kerry,  who  brings  special  credibility  to  this  issue,  not 
only  from  his  service  in  the  Senate,  but  from  his  contribution  in  the 
Vietnam  War. 

Senator  Kerry. 


Senator  Kerry  of  Massachusetts.  Mr.  Chairman,  thank  you  very 
much.  Thank  you  for  permitting  me  to  testify  here  today.  And  I'm 
pleased  to  be  able  to  share  in  this  testimony  this  morning  with  my 
friends  Bob  Kerrey  and  Chuck  Robb,  both  of  whom  served  with  ex- 
traordinary distinction  in  Vietnam  and  understand  exactly  the 
meaning  of  this  story  that  is  unfolding. 

It  is,  as  Bob  Kerrey  just  said,  another  painful  legacy  of  the  Viet- 
nam War,  in  a  sense  our  own  bureaucratic  Phoenix  program.  A 
story  of  hundreds  of  Vietnamese  commandos  who  served  us  ex- 
traordinarily faithfully  during  the  war.  And  this  afternoon,  as  has 
been  mentioned,  I  will  be  offering  an  amendment  together  with 
Senator  McCain,  Senator  Bob  Kerrey,  Senator  Chuck  Robb,  Sen- 
ator Bob  Smith,  Larry  Pressler,  Tom  Daschle,  and  Pat  Leahy,  and 
others  to  reimburse  the  commandos  sitting  behind  me  and  others 
for  their  years  of  incarceration  in  North  Vietnamese  prisons  and 
for  their  years  of  service  in  our  mutual  cause  in  the  war. 

Thirty  years  ago,  as  Bob  Kerrey  alluded  to,  Vietnam  presented 
us  with  contradictions  and  questions  to  last  a  lifetime.  And  now 
once  again,  Vietnam  proves  to  be  the  war  that  refuses  to  go  away. 
An  invisible,  powerful  author  keeps  serving  up  another  chapter  just 
when  we  thought  that  the  full  story  had  been  told.  In  many  ways, 
this  chapter  is  both  new  and  old  at  the  same  time.  Old,  because 
we  knew  that  Neil  Sheehan  was  right  when  he  described  a  "Bright 
Shining  Lie"  and  new  because  the  stark,  bold,  cold  calculation  of 
government  influence  and  betrayal  toward  patriots  stuns  us  in  this 
cynical  age.  Old  because  we  have  learned  through  centuries  that 
war  is  cruel  and  new  because  as  Americans  we  never  expect  that 
we  would  attack  or  diminish  our  own  sense  of  honor.  The  truth  is 
we  sent  heroic  Vietnamese  commandos  under  our  banner,  on  our 

missions,  on  our  payroll,  into  North  Vietnam  to  do  our  bidding, 
risking  their  lives  and  even  their  families'  lives.  And  then  we  left 
them  there,  denied  their  existence  and  walked  away  leaving  them 
to  be  imprisoned,  tortured,  or  killed. 

So  we  are  here  today  to  right  a  wrong.  To  pay  for  an  injustice. 
To  seek  fairness  and  to  put  to  rest  yet  another  disturbing  legacy 
of  the  Vietnam  War.  And  I  think  as  my  colleagues  have  said,  that 
is  not  too  much  to  ask. 

These  are  the  facts.  In  the  early  days  of  the  war,  the  United 
States  and  the  South  Vietnamese  governments  initiated  a  joint  cov- 
ert intelligence  gathering  operation  against  North  Vietnam.  South 
Vietnamese  government  officials  recruited  commandos  from  among 
the  Vietnamese  civilians  and  the  ARVN,  the  Army  of  the  Republic 
of  Vietnam,  and  the  United  States  through  the  CIA,  and  later  the 
Defense  Department,  provided  the  training,  the  funding,  including 
all  salaries,  allowances,  bonuses,  and  death  benefits.  Together  the 
United  States  and  South  Vietnamese  officials  determined  where 
and  when  the  commandos,  who  were  organized  into  teams,  would 
be  inserted  into  North  Vietnam.  Many  were  dropped  by  parachute, 
but  some  were  sent  in  by  sea  or  over  land.  Some  also  conducted 
counterintelligence  activities  against  North  Vietnam  from  Laos. 

ARIES,  the  first  team,  was  inserted  in  early  1961.  By  the  early 
1970s,  fifty-two  teams  comprising  approximately  500  commandos 
had  been  inserted  behind  enemy  lines.  Initially  the  mission  was 
confined  to  intelligence  gathering,  but  soon  it  was  expanded  to  in- 
clude sabotage  and  psychological  warfare.  From  the  beginning  it 
was  clear,  at  least  to  some,  those  responsible,  that  this  operation 
was  a  failure.  Recently  declassified  Defense  Department  documents 
show  that  the  teams  were  killed  or  captured  shortly  after  landing. 
And  that  the  CIA  and  the  Defense  Department,  which  took  over 
the  operation  in  early  1964,  knew  it  at  the  time. 

It  is  now  apparent  that  the  missions  were  compromised.  And 
that  Hanoi  ran  a  counterespionage  operation  against  us  and  our 
South  Vietnamese  allies  by  forcing  the  commandos  to  radio  back  to 
us  exactly  what  Hanoi  wanted  us  to  know  and  hear.  The  prepon- 
derance of  evidence  that  has  come  to  light  in  the  last  year  leaves 
little  doubt  that  the  United  States  continued  to  insert  South  Viet- 
namese commandos  behind  enemy  lines  knowing  full  well  what  the 
outcome  of  those  missions  would  be.  And  what  the  chances  of  suc- 
cess were.  The  Defense  Department  then  compounded  that  tragedy 
by  simply  writing  off  the  lost  commandos.  Drawing  a  line  through 
their  names  as  dead,  apparently  in  order  to  avoid  paying  monthly 

For  example,  a  six-man  team  called  ATTILA  was  dropped  into 
Nai  Am  province  on  April  25,  1964.  The  team  was  immediately 
captured.  Two  months  later  on  July  16  Radio  Hanoi  announced  the 
names  and  addresses  of  the  six  team  members,  the  dates  they  were 
captured,  and  the  start  of  their  trials.  Declassified  Defense  Depart- 
ment documents  indicated  that  we  knew  the  team  had  been  cap- 
tured. Nevertheless  by  the  beginning  of  1965,  the  Defense  Depart- 
ment had  declared  the  entire  team  dead,  and  had  paid  very  small 
benefits  to  their  next  of  kin. 

This  process  of  declaring  the  commandos  dead  on  paper  was  re- 
affirmed in   1969  by  the  operations  officer  for  something  called 

OPLAN  34A  in  the  Pentagon.  And  that  officer  said  at  the  time,  and 
I  quote  him,  "We  reduce  the  number  of  dead  gradually  by  declaring 
so  many  of  them  dead  each  month  until  we  had  written  them  all 
off  and  removed  them  from  the  monthly  payrolls." 

After  sending  these  brave  men,  on  what  by  anyone's  judgment 
were  next  to  suicide  missions,  and  after  cutting  off  their  pay,  we 
then  committed  the  most  egregious  error  of  all — we  made  no  effort 
to  obtain  their  release  along  with  American  POWs  during  the  peace 
negotiations  in  Paris.  As  a  result,  many  of  these  brave  men,  who 
fought  along  side  us  for  the  same  cause,  spent  years  in  prison — 
more  than  20  years  in  some  cases. 

After  their  release  from  prison  in  the  late  1970's  or  80's,  a  num- 
ber of  the  commandos  made  their  way  to  the  United  States  and  are 
now  simply  seeking  acknowledgment  of  their  service  and  payment 
from  the  United  States  government  for  the  period  of  their  intern- 

In  a  pending  law  suit,  which  has  been  referred  to,  they've  asked 
for  $2,000  a  year — not  a  very  significant  sum — for  an  average  of  20 
years  spent  in  captivity.  The  United  States  owes  these  men  a  debt 
that  can  frankly  never  be  repaid,  but  we  can  at  least  give  them  the 
recognition  that  they  deserve  and  the  small  amount  of  compensa- 
tion that  they  were  promised  three  decades  ago. 

Mr.  Chairman,  I  want  to  emphasize  that  we're  not  here  today, 
I  am  certainly  not  here  today,  to  point  a  finger  at  anyone  individ- 
ually. I  am  certainly  not  here  looking  for  scapegoats  or  scalps.  I 
don't  think  any  purpose  is  served  by  that.  We  know  the  difficulties 
of  that  time.  We  know  what  it  did  to  the  country.  We  know  the 
road  and  journey  we've  traveled  since  then.  And  I  think  all  of  us 
are  anxious  to  continue  the  process  of  healing.  And  that  is  more 
important  in  many  regards,  and  in  many  ways  that  is  exactly  what 
this  effort  is  about. 

But  we  should  understand  what  happened  so  that  such  a  choice 
is  never  made  again.  We're  here  simply  to  do  the  right  thing.  And 
it  is  important  not  to  compound  the  judgment  that  was  exercised 
during  the  1960's  by  avoiding  a  better  judgment  and  our  respon- 
sibility today.  We  can't  bring  anybody  back  to  life.  We  can't  make 
up  for  the  extraordinary  suffering  or  for  the  torture  or  for  the  years 
of  having  turned  away  from  these  fighters.  But  we  can  honor  their 
service,  and  we  can  make  it  clear  to  those  who  wish  to  join  us  in 
the  struggle  for  freedom  and  democracy  in  the  future,  that  we  are 
a  country  big  enough  to  admit  mistakes,  and  strong  enough  to  un- 
derstand our  clear  sense  of  responsibility  and  duty  and  to  move  to 
rectify  mistakes  when  they  are  made.  And  that  while  sometimes  in- 
dividuals may  make  a  mistake,  as  a  country,  we  are  a  people  with 
extraordinary  generosity,  a  great  country,  that  will  always  honor 
and  thank  those  who  fight  with  us  in  common  cause. 

I  also  want  to  emphasize,  as  I'm  confident  Bob  Kerrey  and  Chuck 
Robb  would,  that  even  as  we  sit  here  today  talking  about  a  debt 
owed  to  those  who  joined  us  as  allies  in  a  fight,  we,  I  know,  par- 
ticularly as  veterans,  want  to  remember  that  there  are  still  too 
many  of  our  own  brothers  here  in  this  country  who  are  dealing 
with  the  terrible  aftermath  of  that  war  even  in  1996.  And  that  ef- 
forts to  repay  these  commandos  should  not  diminish  our  obligation 
to  our  fellow  veterans  in  this  country  to  maintain  the  standard  of 

care  and  attention  which  has  been  promised  to  them  and  which,  I 
must  say  candidly,  is  threatened  today  by  some  of  the  choices  being 
made  here  in  Washington. 

I  thank  you,  Mr.  Chairman,  for  listening. 

Chairman  SPECTER.  Thank  you  very  much,  Senator  Kerry. 

My  own  service  was  during  the  Korean  War,  so  I  did  not  have 
the  call  in  Vietnam  as  you  did  and  Senator  Robert  Kerrey  and  Sen- 
ator Chuck  Robb.  And  as  I  hear  your  testimony  and  review  the  al- 
legations, this  conduct  seems  to  me  to  be  just  totally  indefensible 
and  I  have  grave  doubts  that  money  is  enough.  And  when  you  say 
we  can't  bring  people  back  to  life,  that's  certainly  true,  but  I  have 
a  strong  sense  that  it  is  necessary  to  do  more  than  pay  compen- 
satory damages  if  we're  to  have  an  example  that  this  conduct  will 
not  be  tolerated  in  the  future. 

And  I  know  how  difficult  it  is  to  assess  individual  blame,  but  I 
have  a  sense  that  that  inquiry  ought  to  be  made.  What  we  do  it, 
I'm  not  exactly  sure.  But  this  conduct  as  you've  described  it,  and 
as  I  have  seen  it,  is  criminal.  It  is  criminal  conduct.  Where  there's 
a  duty  owed  to  these  Vietnamese  commandos  who  were  going  in  to 
do  our  mission,  when  we  leave  them  in  captivity  to  be  tortured  and 
to  be  mutilated  and  to  do  nothing  about  it,  that's  homicide,  it's 
malice,  it's  premeditated.  And  the  payment  from  the  government 
hardly  seems  to  me  to  be  sufficient. 

Well,  that's  what  we  have  to  wrestle  with.  And  it's  not  exactly 
yesterday.  It's  today.  The  CIA  cannot  be  present  here  today,  be- 
cause they  are  fearful  of  testifying  in  a  Senate  proceeding  because 
they  may  prejudice  a  case  in  the  Court  of  Claims.  I,  frankly,  do  not 
see  how  their  case  can  be  more  prejudiced  than  it  is  today.  And  I 
commend  you  for  the  legislation  which  you  have  introduced.  And 
I  intend  to  introduce  legislation  to  overturn  the  1875  Supreme 
Court  decision  which  says  that  lips  are  sealed  and  you  can't  go  be- 
hind a  secret  agreement.  That's  a  horrendous  decision  which  ought 
not  to  receive  any  weight  today  from  anybody,  including  the  De- 
partment of  Justice  which  is  fighting  that  case. 

But  these  are  not  mistakes  that  were  made  yesterday,  a  decade 
ago,  or  two  decades  ago,  or  three  decades  ago;  they  are  going  on 
today.  Our  government  is  not  facing  up  to  the  facts.  Not  facing  up 
to  basic  humanity. 

Senator  Kerry  of  Massachusetts.  Mr.  Chairman,  if  I  could  just 
say  that  I  agree  with  most  of  what  you  have  said  with  respect  to 
your  characterization  of  it,  but  I  do  think  that  it's  important  to  put 
on  the  record  that  we've  worked  closely  with  the  Administration; 
that  immediately  when  it  learned  about  this,  indicated  a  desire  to 
try  to  rectify  it  and  try  to  do  what  is  correct.  And  Tony  Lake,  on 
behalf  of  the  President  and  the  White  House  has  helped  to  nego- 
tiate out  a  means  of  doing  that  in  a  way  that  doesn't  extend  beyond 
this  case  to  cases  that  we're  not  even  aware  of  or  situations  we're 
not  aware  of.  We've  tried  to  include  the  full  universe  of  people. 

The  law  suit  embraces,  I  believe,  about  281.  We've  encompassed 
the  full  universe  of  400  to  500,  which  is  why  there  is  a  discrepancy 
between  the  amount  of  money  that  we  are  asking  for  in  our  legisla- 
tion versus  what  the  lawsuit  is  asking  for.  So  in  effect,  I  think 
while  an  argument  can  be  made  on  the  value  here,  what  we're 
doing  is  respecting  what  the  commandos  themselves  have  asked 

for.  And  I  think  it  is  its  own  statement  about  values  that  there's 
that  level  of  a  reasonableness.  And  in  a  sense  one  of  the  things 
that  they  have  indicated  that  they  want  more  perhaps  than  money, 
is  this  process  of  public  acknowledgment  for  what  they  went 
through  and  for  the  service  they  gave.  And  so  I  think  that  is  part 
of  what  is  happening  here. 

But  I  do  agree — the  fundamental  egregious  decisions  that  were 
made,  were  made  a  number  of  years  ago.  Is  there  a  pattern  of  se- 
crecy that  continues?  The  answer  is  yes.  And  I  think  we  are  always 
trying  to  break  through  that  barrier. 

Chairman  Specter.  Senator  Kerry,  we  have  just  five  minutes 
left  on  the  vote,  and  the  votes  are  going  to  be  strictly  enforced  as 
to  time.  I  agree  with  you  that  the  Administration  has  acted  prop- 
erly with  respect  to  the  cooperation  with  you  on  your  bill.  I  have 
a  question  as  to  what  the  Department  of  Justice  is  doing,  the  De- 
partment of  Defense,  and  the  CIA  are  doing,  but  my  statements 
were  not  intended  in  any  way  to  make  any  suggestion  that  the  Ad- 
ministration was  not  acting  in  a  forthright  manner  in  dealing  with 
this  specific  issue.  And  I  appreciate  the  fact  that  it  could  be  a 
precedent,  and  could  it  be  extended,  and  could  it  be  something  they 
don't  want  to  make  a  judgment  on  or  make  a  commitment  to  before 
they  see  other  facts.  And  that's  what  we  have  to  pursue.  And  I 
agree  with  you  that  the  acknowledgment  is  very  important  and 
that  this  hearing  and  perhaps  subsequent  hearings  can  accomplish 

Senator  Kerry  of  Massachusetts.  Thank  you,  Mr.  Chairman. 

Chairman  Specter.  Thank  you  very  much,  Senator  Kerry. 

We're  going  to  stand  in  recess  for  a  few  moments  until  we  con- 
clude the  vote,  and  we  will  continue  with  the  hearing  in  about  10 
to  15  minutes. 

Thank  you. 

[A  recess  was  taken  from  9:33  a.m.  until  9:59  a.m.] 

Chairman  SPECTER.  We  are  now  going  to  hear  from  Mr.  Ha  Van 
Son,  former  commando,  who  is  speaking  for  not  only  himself,  but 
others;  and  Mr.  Sedgwick  Tourison,  author  of  the  "Secret  Army,  Se- 
cret War."  Let  us  begin  with  you  Mr.  Tourison. 

Thank  you  for  joining  us  and  we  look  forward  to  your  testimony. 


Mr.  Tourison.  Senator  Specter,  Senator  Kerrey,  distinguished 
members  of  the  Senate  Intelligence  Committee,  thank  you  for  this 
truly  unique  opportunity  to  appear  before  you  today  to  speak  about 
the  lost  commandos. 

Chairman  Specter.  We  would  ask  you  to  limit  your  testimony  to 
5  minutes  if  you  could.  Your  statement  will  be  made  part  of  the 
record.  May  we  use  the  light  please. 

Mr.  Tourison.  I  authored  the  book  "Secret  Army,  Secret  War" 
published  by  the  Naval  Institute  Press  in  July  1995.  My  book  is  a 
tragic  story  about  the  over  450  Vietnamese  commandos  who 
worked  for  both  the  United  States  and  the  Republic  of  Vietnam.  All 
were  declared  dead  after  landing  inside  North  Vietnam.  In  Decem- 
ber 1988  one  of  the  surviving  agents  asked  me  to  write  about  the 
commando  force  that  survived  15  or  more  years  at  hard  labor  while 


convicted  of  espionage.  And  I  knew  that  I  would  be  challenged  to 
present  fact,  not  opinion;  truth,  not  propaganda.  The  man  who 
asked  me  to  do  that  is  seated  behind  me  to  my  left,  Le  Van  Ngung, 
former  commander  of  Team  HADLEY,  landed  in  North  Vietnam, 
January  25,  1967;  declared  dead  June  1967.  He  is  today,  as  was 
then,  very  much  alive. 

In  January  1993,  the  declassified  history  of  our  wartime  covert 
operations  confirmed  the  terrible  chilling  fact.  We  declared  all  our 
covert  agents  dead,  even  with  the  certain  knowledge  that  nearly  all 
were  taken  prisoner  and  were  last  known  alive  in  captivity.  Gen- 
eral William  C.  Westmoreland,  our  wartime  commander  in  South 
Vietnam,  has  stated  the  following  for  the  record  in  regard  to  the 
actions  of  some  of  our  own  officers  who  directed  our  Vietnamese 
commando  agents.  "If  I  had  known  then,  what  I  now  believe  to  be 
the  facts,  I  would  have  fired  a  lot  of  them." 

In  Philadelphia,  Pennsylvania  stands  a  monument  to  Stephen 
Girard,  an  American  patriot  of  French  ancestry.  The  monument  to 
which  I  refer  is  Girard  College,  my  alma  mater,  an  institution  that 
educates  children  without  fathers.  Inscribed  inside  Girard's  main 
building  are  the  words  of  its  founder:  "My  deeds  must  be  my  life. 
When  I  am  dead,  my  actions  must  speak  for  me."  What  I  have 
written  about  our  Vietnamese  wartime  agents  is  my  deed.  Others 
will  measure  its  worth.  The  children  of  our  Vietnamese  wartime 
covert  operatives  lost  in  North  Vietnam  grew  up  without  a  father, 
families  lost  a  son,  and  siblings  lost  a  brother.  I  share  with  them 
the  pride  of  our  misdeeds. 

An  issue  that  many  of  you  are  wrestling  with  is  a  simple  one. 
Who  was  responsible  for  what  happened  during  the  war,  and  what 
are  our  responsibilities  today?  I  can  answer  the  first.  Others  must 
answer  the  second. 

A  little  background.  In  January,  1993,  I  contacted  an  attorney, 
John  Mattes,  about  the  agents.  Mr.  Mattes  had  not  been  aware  of 
these  commandos  and  the  Joint  Chiefs  of  Staff  study  of  our  covert 
operations.  In  the  fall  of  1993,  Mr.  Mattes  agreed  to  seek  com- 
pensation for  these  agents.  I  located  and  introduced  to  him  over 
350  surviving  agents  and  the  next  of  kin  of  those  who  perished. 
Some  of  these  agents  are  here  today.  Before  Mr.  Mattes  contracted 
with  any  potential  clients,  I  signed  an  agreement  with  him  that 
prevented  me  from  receiving  one  cent  of  any  compensation  for  his 
legal  services.  In  my  mind,  it  was  then  and  still  is  today  blood 
money  of  which  I  want  no  part. 

The  covert  war  that  involved  these  agents  was  kept  from  the 
Pentagon  Papers  from  one  man  in  the  Pentagon  who  knew  the 
truth  and  kept  silent,  Daniel  Ellsberg.  Why  was  this  covert  war 
kept  from  public  view  for  decades?  My  testimony  may  provide  some 
insight  into  this. 

For  example,  on  November  8,  1995,  I  was  invited  by  the  Vietnam 
Veterans  Institute  to  speak  at  the  Army-Navy  Club  in  Washington 
at  a  one  day  symposium  to  critique  former  Defense  Secretary  Rob- 
ert McNamara's  memoir.  I  ask  that  a  copy  of  my  remarks  at  the 
WI  symposium  be  entered  into  your  record  as  it  contains  my  con- 
clusions about  the  effect  of  our  disastrous  covert  operation  against 
North  Vietnam. 

The  CIA's  failures  in  the  covert  operation  were  acknowledged  by 
the  late  CIA  Director  William  Colby  to  Mike  Wallace  on  the  May 
5,  1996  program  "60  Minutes."  Mr.  Colby  agreed  that  we  had  an 
obligation  to  compensate  these  commandos  and  we  had  not  yet  ful- 
filled that  obligation.  I  know  that  General  Westmoreland  echoes 
Mr.  Colby's  sentiments. 

With  regard  to  the  question  of  who  was  responsible  30  or  more 
years  ago,  the  first  confirmed  payment  of  death  benefits  occurred 
during  the  CIA's  stewardship.  The  wife  of  Dinh  Nhu  Khoa,  an 
agent  whose  capture  was  reported  widely  in  the  international  press 
and  in  particular  during  the  public  trial  in  Hanoi  in  December 
1961,  was  paid  death  benefits  in  January  1962,  by  the  Republic  of 
Vietnam  Armed  Forces.  I  have  documentary  evidence  that  the  Re- 
public of  Vietnam  paid  death  benefits  through  December  1963  to 
the  wives  of  other  agents,  and  there  is  anecdotal  evidence  that  the 
CIA  was  the  source  of  these  payments. 

I  must  make  one  point  clear  from  the  outside.  These  were  by  and 
large  citizens  of  the  Republic  of  Vietnam.  However,  their  activities 
were  directed  by  the  United  States. 

Major  General  John  Singlaub,  the  MACSOG  commander  during 
1966-68,  was  quoted  in  the  Time  Magazine  issue  of  June  24,  1996 
as  follows:  "I  don't  think  there  is  a  legal  or  moral  justification  for 
saying  who  should  accept  responsibility  for  them.  They  were  not 
Americans."  With  all  due  respect  to  Major  General  Singlaub,  our 
national  intelligence  community  makes  payments  to  agents  all  the 
time.  And  such  payments  are  usually  in  accordance  with  the 
agent's  contract  for  services.  And  I  say  this  from  the  position  as  a 
former  intelligence  officer,  including  a  case  officer,  who  dealt  with 
agents,  including  agent  payrolls,  during  my  4  years  in  Laos. 

Permit  me  to  describe  the  contract  that  MACSOG  had  with  the 
agents  it  sent  in  harms  way.  To  begin  with,  the  House  of  Rep- 
resentatives authorized  appropriated  funds  for  these  covert  oper- 
ations to  include  agent  pay.  The  funds  were  provided  to  and  man- 
aged by  the  U.S.  Navy  through  its  annual  budget.  The  Navy's  8 
year  financial  records  of  MACSOG's  covert  operations,  approxi- 
mately 240,000  pages,  were  declassified  beginning  on  June  5,  1996. 

The  covert  operation  was  pursuant  to  the  agreement  as  described 
by  Senator  Kerry.  The  National  Security  Council  approved  an  ex- 
pansionist program  in  November  1960  to  include  teams  of  armed 
agents.  As  of  January  1966,  the  South  Vietnamese  Strategic  Tech- 
nical Service  received  monthly  salary  payments  from  its  American 
counterpart.  The  counterpart  was  the  Military  Assistance  Com- 
mand Studies  and  Observations  Group,  MACSOG,  then  headed  by 
Colonel  Donald  Blackburn.  According  to  U.S.  Marine  Corps  Colonel 
John  Windsor,  Operations  Officer  at  MACSOG  during  this  period, 
MACSOG  Commander  Colonel  Blackburn's  desire  was  that  these 
relatives  of  agents  in  North  Vietnam  should  be  paid  the  death  al- 
lowance and  that  the  agent's  monthly  pay  to  the  relatives  back  in 
Saigon  be  discontinued.  Quoting  from  Colonel  Windsor: 

When  I  told  South  Vietnamese  Colonel  Chun  Van  Ho  what  he  wanted  to  do  they 
cooperated  to  the  fullest.  They  reduced  the  number  of  dead  gradually,  declaring  so 
many  of  them  dead  each  month  until  we  had  written  them  all  off,  paid  them,  and 
removed  them  from  the  monthly  payroll.  Colonel  Ho  didn't  want  the  Vietnamese 
agents  and  the  relatives  to  know  that  we  lost  so  many.  He  nevertheless  agreed  to 
our  proposal. 


Colonel  Blackburn's  proposal,  given  the  U.S.  role  in  the  operation 
was  not  a  request,  it  was  a  command. 

Then,  as  MACSOG,  through  the  South  Vietnamese,  was  writing 
off  its  agents,  new  agents  were  recruited  into  the  program  with  the 
promise  that  their  paid  allowances  would  continue  until  they  re- 
turned from  their  mission. 

I  wish  to  submit  for  the  record,  the  January  1966  payroll  report 
from  the  South  Vietnamese  headquarters  that  supplied  the  agents 
to  MACSOG.  The  payroll  identifies,  by  name,  the  first  28  agents 
to  be  wiped  off  the  rolls  and  declared  dead  from  the  1 10  agents  in- 
side North  Vietnam. 

Chairman  Specter.  Mr.  Tourison,  when  the  arrangements  were 
made  with  these  South  Vietnamese  commandos,  was  there  an  ex- 
plicit understanding  or  any  understanding  at  all  that  this  was  a  se- 
cret transaction,  which  would  be  unenforceable  in  an  American 

Mr.  Tourison.  No,  sir;  it  was  not.  In  point  of  fact,  as  the  Joint 
Chiefs  of  Staff  history  demonstrates,  the  operational  security  was 
so  sloppy — team  names  were  left  out  in  the  open.  Violations  of  fun- 
damental rules  of  document  security,  personnel  security,  it  was  a 

Chairman  Specter.  Well,  the  issue  has  been  raised  in  the  litiga- 
tion, that  these  were  Secret  arrangements,  lips  were  sealed,  and 
therefore  are  unenforceable.  So  my  question  goes  as  to  the  underly- 
ing facts  here,  as  to  whether  that  was  the  contractual  arrangement 
between  the  parties. 

Mr.  TOURISON.  Not  to  the  best  of  my  knowledge,  from  having 
spoken  with  over  300 — nearly  300  agents.  And  having  spoken  with 
the  Vietnamese  officers  who  directed  them.  There  was,  between  the 
South  Vietnamese  and  the  Americans  who  were  managing  the  pro- 
gram, an  understanding  of  the  need  for  secrecy.  However, 
MACSOG  compromised  that  when,  late  in  1963,  early  1964,  it 
brought  all  the  agents  together  at  a  huge  training  center  for  spies. 

Chairman  Specter.  Well,  when  you  are  talking  about  secrecy 
there  well  may  be  secrecy  as  to  what  the  mission  is  of  the  South 
Vietnamese  commandos,  but  that  doesn't  go  to  the  core  issue  as  to 
whether  the  contractual  arrangements  are  secret  and  unenforce- 
able in  an  American  court. 

Mr.  TOURISON.  The  agreements  that  the  Vietnamese  signed,  ac- 
cording to  their  statements  to  me,  were  not  stamped  classified,  nor 
were  they  told  that  they  could  never  tell  anyone  what  they  were 
doing,  nor  were  they  ever  told  anything  other  than  we  will  take 
care  of  you,  just  go  to  North  Vietnam. 

Chairman  SPECTER.  In  the  foreword  to  your  book,  "Secret  Army, 
Secret  War,"  you  comment  about  almost  feeling  like  a  voyeur  lis- 
tening to  a  conversation,  distinguishing  between  the  rights  of  the 
South  Vietnamese  contrasted  with  the  position  of  the  United  States 
Government,  United  States  citizens.  The  essence,  as  I  understand 
it,  as  to  what  you  are  saying  here  is  that  somehow,  some  people 
considered  the  obligation  to  the  South  Vietnamese  to  be  an  inferior 
obligation,  no  duties,  because  they  were  not  American.  Is  that  cor- 

Mr.  Tourison.  I  believe  that  is  a  fair  statement,  Senator  Specter. 


If  I  may  point  out  that  with  regard  to  the  financial  arrangements 
with  the  agents,  there  is  ample  evidence  from  the  surviving  agents 
that  the  money  that  we  paid  to  the  South  Vietnamese  side  of  the 
operation  may,  in  many  cases,  never  have  reached  the  wives  and 
the  parents  to  whom  it  was  to  be  paid. 

Chairman  Specter.  Where  did  the  money  go? 

Mr.  TOURISON.  I  don't  know,  Senator. 

Chairman  Specter.  Let  me  turn  at  this  point  to  former  com- 
mando Ha  Van  Son.  We  welcome  you  here,  Mr.  Son.  Would  you 
care  to  make  an  opening  statement? 



Mr.  Son.  First  I  appreciate  everybody  we  made  to  be  here  to  talk 
about  my  story.  That's  not  my  story,  but  I  think  that's  a  fact  of  the 
history  of  the  Vietnam  War.  Was  recruited  by  Americans  and 
trained  by  Americans.  And  when  I  go  operation  by  plane,  of  Amer- 
ican. And  in  my  operation  the  leader  of  my  team  is  American. 

Chairman  Specter.  When  were  you  recruited,  Mr.  Son? 

Mr.  Son.  1967. 

Chairman  Specter.  And  pursuant  to  that  recruitment,  precisely 
what  did  you  do? 

Mr.  Son.  I  didn't  know  who  recruit  me,  but  that's  an  American. 
And  after  I  was  trained  and  because  I  think  this  a  secret  war,  so 
I  didn't  ask  everything  about  my  duty  and  everything. 

Chairman  SPECTER.  What  happened  to  you  during  the  service 
you  rendered  as  a  South  Vietnamese  commando? 

Mr.  Son.  No;  I'm  not  a  South  Vietnamese  commando.  Only  be- 

Chairman  Specter.  How  would  you  classify  or  categorize  your- 
self? What  would  you  call  yourself? 

Mr.  Son.  I  haven't — I  only  a  team  member. 

Chairman  Specter.  A  team  member? 

Mr.  Son.  Yes. 

Chairman  Specter.  Okay,  what  did  you  do  as  a  team  member? 

Mr.  Son.  Team  member.  I  received  the  command  of  my  team 
leader  is  Mr.  Jim  Vernon  Dexter.  Go  operation  to  Lao.  In  the  bor- 
der Laos  and  North  Vietnam.  And  a  tragedy.  When  he  finished  my 
operation  with  the  helicopter  came  to  pick  up  us,  when  the  heli- 
copter came  to  pick  us  up,  the  helicopter  was  shot  down.  And  after 
I  was  captured  with  Mr.  Vernon  Dexter  and  Frank  Curst.  Mr.  Jim 
Vernon  Dexter  was  dead  in  Tangh  Wa  province,  North  Vietnam, 
because  the  Communist  dead  him.  And  one,  the  other  GI  is  Frank 
Curst.  He  was  exchange  when  Paris  agreement  was  signed  in  1973. 
And  me  stay  in  jail. 

Chairman  Specter.  You  were  in  jail? 

Mr.  Son.  Yeah. 

Chairman  Specter.  How  long  were  you  in  jail? 

Mr.  Son.  Twenty  years. 

Chairman  SPECTER.  Twenty  years. 

Mr.  Son.  Twenty  years. 

Chairman  Specter.  Almost  twenty  years? 

Mr.  SON.  Yes.  That's  my  tragedy. 


Chairman  Specter.  And  what  happened  to  you  while  you  were 
in  jail.  How  were  you  treated? 

Mr.  Son.  I  was  a  long  time.  But  I  think,  and  I  believe  all  the 
time  in  jail,  I  believe  that  the  U.S.  government  and  the  Republic 
of  Vietnam's  government  will  pick  us  out  of  the  jail.  Because  I  wish 
somebody  to  come  and  get  me.  Nobody  get  you  out. 

Chairman  Specter.  How  old  are  you  know  Mr.  Son? 

Mr.  Son.  Forty-eight. 

Chairman  Specter.  And  how  old  were  you  when  you  first  went 
to  jail? 

Mr.  Son.  Nineteen. 

Chairman  Specter.  Mr.  Son,  I  am  told  that  you  have  just  today 
examined  a  document  which  is  labeled  a  death  gratuity.  Which 
says  that  I,  Ha  Van  Cau,  ID  Number  06935,  received  from  liaison 
bureau  the  amount  of  41,200  $VN. 

Mr.  Son.  That's  my  father. 

Chairman  Specter.  For  the  death  of  Ha  Van  Son. 

Mr.  Son.  Yeah.  My  name. 

Chairman  Specter.  That's  you.  Who  was  killed  while  on  duty 
with  FOB  #1  Phu  Bai.  To  the  above  amount  is  paid  as  survivors 
death  benefits.  This  payment  reflects  full  settlement  of  death  gra- 
tuity and  the  United  States  Government  is  hereby  released  from 
any  future  claims  arising  from  this  incident.  Pay  computation 
5,100  monthly  pay  times  12  months,  61,200. 

Mr.  Son.  Yeah. 

Chairman  Specter.  Would  you  mind  stepping  forward?  I'd  like 
to  show  this  to  you.  Come  forward  and  identify  what  purports  to 
be  your  father's  signature.  Take  a  look  at  that. 

Mr.  Son.  This  is  really  my  father's  signature. 

Chairman  Specter.  This  right  here  is  your  father's  signature. 

Mr.  Son.  My  father. 

Chairman  Specter.  You  are  sure  of  that? 

Mr.  Son.  Yeah.  He  was  dead  on  1993  before  I  came  to  America. 

Chairman  Specter.  We  have  present  today,  I'm  informed,  Mr. 
John  Mattis  who's  representing  the  commandos.  You  are  Mr. 
Mattis?  Would  you  mind  stepping  forward? 

Mr.  Mattis  would  you  state  briefly  the  scope  of  your  representa- 
tion of  the  commandos? 

Mr.  Mattis.  Senator,  I  have  represented  the  commandos  since 
1993  in  the  investigation  of  their  claim. 

Chairman  Specter.  You  are  an  attorney  at  law? 

Mr.  Mattis.  That's  correct,  sir. 

Chairman  Specter.  And  where  are  you  licensed  to  practice? 

Mr.  Mattis.  I'm  licensed  in  the  federal  claims  court  here  in 
Washington  and  in  federal  courts  in  and  around  the  United  States. 

Chairman  Specter.  Do  you  have  your  offices  here  in  Washing- 

Mr.  Mattis.  No.  My  offices  are  based  in  Miami,  Florida. 

Chairman  Specter.  And  briefly  stated,  what  is  the  status  of  the 
litigation  in  the  court  of  claims? 

Mr.  Mattis.  The  status — we  are — we  have  been  pursuing  discov- 
ery for  the  last  several  years.  We've  been  seeking  the  government 
turning  over  to  us  documents  which  we  believe  to  exist  and  inde- 


pendent  of  the  court  process  we  were  able  to  obtain  the  500,000  top 
secret  documents.  Despite 

Chairman  Specter.  Not  through  federal  discovery  though? 

Mr.  Mattis.  That's  correct. 

Chairman  Specter.  How  did  you  get  them?  Freedom  of  Informa- 
tion Act? 

Mr.  Mattis.  That's  correct  sir.  We  obtained  them  through  a  fed- 
eral FOIA  request  which  we  made  to  the  National  Archives. 

Chairman  Specter.  How  many  commandos  are  you  represent- 

Mr.  Mattis.  Approximately  300. 

Chairman  Specter.  And  you  have  quite  a  number  of  the  com- 
mandos here  today? 

Mr.  Mattis.  That's  correct. 

Chairman  SPECTER.  Could  you  identify  those  commandos  who 
are  present  in  the  hearing  room. 

Mr.  Mattis.  Sir,  we  got  commandos  from  the  Atlanta  region  and 
some  of  the  commandos'  periods  of  incarceration  range  from  15  to 
25  years  with  the  longest  being  incarcerated  until  1988.  His  wife, 
his  children  are  still  in  Vietnam.  We  cannot  get  them  out. 

Chairman  Specter.  Who  is  that?  Will  that  gentleman  please 
stand.  And  what  is  his  name? 

Mr.  TOURISON.  His  name  is  Win  Van  Thu. 

Mr.  SON.  His  wife  and  two  children  still  be  in  Vietnam.  They 
didn't  approve. 

Chairman  SPECTER.  I  would  like  for  all  of  the  Vietnam  comman- 
dos or  members  of  the  team  to  stand  if  they  would  please. 

[Those  commandos  in  the  room  stood  for  recognition.] 

Chairman  SPECTER.  Thank  you  very  much.  Thank  you. 

I  would  like  to  call  at  this  time  Major  General  Singlaub.  If  you 
gentlemen  would  sit  back  for  a  few  moments. 

Major  General  Singlaub  would  you  step  forward,  please. 

Major  General  Singlaub,  we  very  much  appreciate  your  joining 
us  today  to  help  us  on  our  inquiry  into  this  matter.  Your  full  state- 
ment will  be  made  a  part  of  the  record.  To  the  extent  that  you  can 
summarize  it  within  the  course  of  five  minutes,  we  would  appre- 
ciate it.  If  it  takes  you  some  time  longer,  we  understand  that.  And 
the  floor  is  yours. 


General  Singlaub.  Thank  you  very  much  Mr.  Chairman.  I  cer- 
tainly appreciate  the  opportunity  to  address  this  Committee  on  this 
very  important  subject  of  the  so-called  Vietnamese  special  comman- 
dos. At  the  outset  I  want  to  make  it  clear  that  I  have  great  admira- 
tion for  the  individual  valor  and  the  courage,  and  the  patriotism  of 
the  majority  of  the  people  who  participated  in  that  program.  They 
were  volunteers.  And  these  were  very  hazardous  missions  into 
Communist  controlled  North  Vietnam. 

I've  been  asked  to  explain  my  relationship  to  these  commandos 
and  I'll  do  that  as  quickly  as  I  can. 

I  was  on  the  Army  General  Staff  in  1965  and  was  selected  by  the 
Chief  of  Staff  of  the  Army,  at  that  time  Harold  K.  Johnson 

37-433  -  97  -  2 


Chairman  Specter.  General  Singlaub,  how  long  were  you  in  the 
military  service? 

General  Singlaub.  I  served  a  little  over  35  V2  years  active  duty. 

Chairman  SPECTER.  And  when  did  you  terminate  active  duty? 

General  Singlaub.  In  1978. 

Chairman  SPECTER.  Thank  you  very  much. 

General  Singlaub.  I  was  selected  by  the  Chief  of  Staff  to  take 
command  of  the  MACVSOG  organization,  at  that  time  commanded 
by  Colonel  Don  Blackburn.  I  was  a  colonel  at  that  time.  I  started 
my  briefings  in  February  of  1966  and  departed  the  United  States 
in  April  of  that  year  and  actually  took  command  in  May  of  1966. 
And  I  retained  command  of  MACSOG  until  August  of  1968. 

I  think  it  is  appropriate  to  make  some  reference  to  what 
MACSOG — MACVSOG  actually  was.  There  appears  to  be  some 
confusion  on  that  subject.  MACVSOG  was  a  DOD-established  joint 
unconventional  warfare  task  force.  It  was  the  U.S.  component  of  a 
combined  unconventional  warfare  task  force  to  conduct  covert  oper- 
ations in  enemy-controlled  areas  in  southeast  Asia.  That  is  Viet- 
nam, Laos,  and  Cambodia.  MACVSOG  was  truly  a  joint  command. 
It  had  all  of  the  services  represented  in  the  joint  table  of  distribu- 
tion. And  it  had  special  U.S.  ground,  sea  and  air  units  that  were 
assigned  to  MACSOG  for  the  conduct  of  its  covert  operations. 

The  basic  concept  of  the  operation  was  that  the  Vietnamese  gov- 
ernment would  provide  the  operational  personnel  while  the  U.S. 
would  provide  the  advice,  training  assistance,  technical  support 
and  ultimately,  of  course,  the  funding,  as  it  did  for  all  of  the  forces 
engaged  in  that  conflict. 

The  commandos  belonged  to  one  of  the  parts  of  that  organization, 
referred  to  as  OP34  ALPHA.  It  was  a  relatively  small  part  of  the 
total  SOG  program.  This  particular  program  was  initiated  in  1960, 
as  has  been  indicated  by  the  CIA,  and  transferred  to  the  Depart- 
ment of  Defense  in  January  of  1964  when  MACSOG  was  estab- 
lished. And  these  covert  operations  as  opposed  to  clandestine  oper- 
ations were  transferred  to  the  Department  of  Defense. 

And  the  mission  was  to  introduce  these  intelligence  assets  into 
North  Vietnam  to  perform  basically  three  missions.  First,  was  to 
collect  positive  intelligence  on  the  North  Vietnamese  in  North  Viet- 
nam. The  second  was  to  conduct  limited  and  very  specific  sabotage 
activities.  And  finally  their  mission  would  be  to  become  a  cadre  for 
a  resistance  operation  against  the  North  Vietnamese  communist  re- 

Now,  the  third  phase,  or  the  third  mission  was  never  fully  imple- 
mented by  the  OP34  teams. 

Chairman  Specter.  General  Singlaub,  how  many  of  the  South 
Vietnamese  men  were  involved?  In  the  overall  operations? 

General  Singlaub.  Counting  all  of  our  activities? 

Chairman  Specter.  Yes. 

General  Singlaub.  There  were  several  thousand. 

Chairman  Specter.  Several  thousand? 

General  Singlaub.  Yes.  There  were — at  the  maximum,  I  believe 
there  were  about  500  Americans 

Chairman  SPECTER.  And  several  thousand  Vietnamese? 

General  Singlaub.  Yes. 


Chairman  Specter.  Is  it  true  that  when  they  were  taken  pris- 
oners, that  there  was  no  effort  made  by  the  United  States  govern- 
ment to  secure  their  release? 

General  Singlaub.  I  cannot  say  that  that  is  accurate. 

Chairman  Specter.  Do  you  know  of  any  effort  made  by  the  Unit- 
ed States  government  to  secure  their  release? 

General  Singlaub.  These  were  not  the  responsibility  of  the  U.S. 
Government.  Let  me  point  out  how  the  control  was  in  the  hands 
of  the  Vietnamese.  This  is  a  very  important  part  of  this  because 
I've  heard  allegations  of  criminal  behavior  and  deliberate  efforts  to 
take  them  off  the  rolls  to  save  money. 

Chairman  Specter.  Were  they  not  deliberately  taken  off  the  rolls 
of  the  United  States  payment  obligations? 

General  Singlaub.  Not  to  save  money. 

Chairman  Specter.  Well,  were  they  taken  off  the  rolls? 

General  Singlaub.  When  they  were  determined  or  believed  to 
have  been — fallen  under  the  control  of  the  communists  they  were 
taken  off  the  lists  as  active  assets  in  North  Vietnam. 

Chairman  Specter.  But  they  weren't  dead  at  that  time,  were 

General  Singlaub.  They  were  declared  a  nonviable  asset.  Now 
the  arrangements 

Chairman  Specter.  Now  wait  a  minute.  When  they  are  declared 
a  nonviable  asset,  because  they  are  in  custody,  performing  a  mis- 
sion that  the  United  States  government  asked  them  to  under- 

General  Singlaub.  No,  that's  not  true.  You're  starting  with  a 
basic  assumption  that  is  false.  The  United  States  government  did 
not  ask  them.  The  United  States  government  did  not  recruit  them. 
We  provided  assistance  to  a  basically  Vietnamese  intelligence  oper- 

Chairman  Specter.  Did  we  train  them? 

General  Singlaub.  We  assisted  in  the  training. 

Chairman  Specter.  We  assisted  in  the  training? 

General  Singlaub.  That's  correct. 

Chairman  Specter.  We  paid  them. 

General  SINGLAUB.  We  paid  them  through  the  Vietnamese,  but 
that's  true  of  every  member  of  all  of  the  forces.  The  Koreans  and 
the  Thai  and  all  the  others  who  participated  in  that  war. 

Chairman  Specter.  Well,  we  may  have  acted  improperly  in  a  lot 
of  other  cases.  That  doesn't  justify  it  to  say  that  we  paid  them  the 
same  way  we  paid  them  in  Korea  and  Thailand  and  other  places. 

General  Singlaub.  No,  I'm  talking  about 

Chairman  Specter.  Excuse  me.  We  had  an  arrangement  with 
the  South  Vietnamese  government  to  have  these  commandos  per- 
form a  function  that  both  the  United  States  government  and  South 
Vietnam  wanted  carried  out.  Isn't  that  correct. 

General  Singlaub.  Not  quite. 

Chairman  SPECTER.  Well,  what  is  incorrect  about  it? 

General  Singlaub.  The  operation  was  initiated  by  the  Vietnam- 
ese. Initially  it  was  a  priest  who  had  come  out  of  North  Vietnam 
and  he  wanted  assistance  in  recruiting  people  to  return  to  North 
Vietnam.  But  this  was  done  by  CIA. 


Chairman  Specter.  Okay,  initiated  by  the  South  Vietnamese, 
but  agreed  to  by  the  United  States. 

General  Singlaub.  Yes,  agreed  to  for  support,  that's  correct. 

Chairman  SPECTER.  On  a  purpose  which  was  for  the  benefit 
jointly  of  the  Vietnam  government  and  the  United  States  govern- 

General  Singlaub.  That  is  correct.  But,  I  go  on  to  say  that  they 
were  recruited  by  the  Vietnamese.  They  were  screened  and  vetted 
by  the  Vietnamese. 

Chairman  Specter.  Was  the  United  States  government  any  less 
than  a  full  partner  in  this  operation,  General  Singlaub? 

General  Singlaub.  Yes.  We  were  less  than  a  full  partner  in  this 
particular  part  of  the  operation — of  the  total  MACSOG  operation. 
This  was  a  Vietnamese  originated  operation.  It  was  run  by  the  Vi- 
etnamese. We  had  no  say  on  their  methods  of  selecting  the  agents. 
I  made — many  times  I  tried  to  get  them  to  change  or  to  introduce 
some  psychological  assessment  to  try  to  improve  the  quality  of  the 
agents.  But  I  had  no  say.  They  ran  that  part  of  it. 

Chairman  Specter.  Well,  General  Singlaub,  with  all  due  respect, 
I  think  that  when  you  talk  about  the  method  of  selection,  you  are 
at  the  fringe  of  the  operation.  When  you  talk  about  the  initiation, 
that's  an  important  point,  but  then  the  United  States  joins  in.  The 
United  States  is  a  participant.  The  United  States  is  seeking  their 
assistance  for  a  purpose  which  is  for  the  benefit  of  the  United 
States  as  well  as  South  Vietnam.  And  the  United  States  is  under- 
taking to  pay  them  a  certain  amount  of  money. 

General  SINGLAUB.  In  accordance  with  the  contract  signed  by  the 
agents  with  representatives  of  the  Republic  of  Vietnam. 

Chairman  Specter.  Fine.  So  the  Republic  of  Vietnam  is  involved. 
These  individual  men  are  involved,  but  the  United  States  govern- 
ment is  involved.  And  there  is  to  be  a  monthly  payment  for  these 
men  doing  certain  things.  Undertaking  activities  behind  North  Vi- 
etnamese lines.  Now  they  are  taken  into  custody  so  they  are  no 
longer  able  to  perform  an  active  mission.  But  they  are  in  custody, 
they  are  in  jail,  they  are  subjected  to  torture 

General  SINGLAUB.  You  have  to  know 

Chairman  Specter.  Let  me  finish  my  question  please,  General 
Singlaub — for  performing  a  job  that  the  United  States  jointly  asked 
them  to  undertake.  How  can  you,  in  any  conscience  at  all,  say  that 
the  obligation  to  pay  them  ends  at  a  time  when  they  are  taken  into 
custody  totally  beyond  their  control,  carrying  out  a  mission  for  the 
United  States  government  and  South  Vietnam. 

General  Singlaub.  We  paid  them — paid  money  to  the  Vietnam- 
ese to  carry  out  the  contracts  that  they  signed  with  these  agents. 
And  the  terms  of  those  contracts  were  rather  explicit.  They  were 
not  all  the  same.  They  varied  because  of  incentives  that  were  put 
in  by  the  Vietnamese  to  change  it  from  time  to  time.  But  it  stated 
in  the  contract,  that  if  they  were  captured  or  killed,  certain  things 
would  take  place.  And  the  Vietnamese  carried  that  out. 

Chairman  Specter.  Was  it  specified  in  the  contract  that  if  they 
were  captured  performing  a  mission  jointly  for  South  Vietnam  and 
the  United  States  that  the  obligation  of  the  United  States  govern- 
ment to  pay  them  would  end? 


General  Singlaub.  There  was  no  obligation  in  that  contract  with 
the  United  States.  The  contract  was  not  between  the  United  States, 
or  MACSOG,  and  the  agents.  It  was  between  the  Republic  of  Viet- 
nam intelligence  service  and  the  agent  who  did  the  recruiting.  They 
signed  the  contract.  They  adjusted  the  contract.  And  they  came  to 
us  with  a  list  of  people  who  were  entitled  to  various  payments. 

Chairman  Specter.  Well,  if  the  United  States  government  had 
no  obligation  under  the  contract,  General  Singlaub,  why  does  this 
death  gratuity  payment  state  specifically  "this  payment  reflects  full 
settlement  of  death  gratuity  and  the  United  States  government  is 
hereby  released  from  any  future  claims  arising  from  this  incident." 
If  there's  no  obligation,  why  does  the  United  States  government 
seek  a  release? 

General  Singlaub.  Because  the  United  States  government  was 
paying  the  money. 

Chairman  Specter.  Because  the  United  States  government  con- 
cluded that  it  had  an  obligation. 

General  Singlaub.  Well,  the  obligation  was  the  contract  between 
the  two  elements  of  the  Republic  of  Vietnam — their  intelligence 
agents  and  the  intelligence  service  and  we  were  subsidizing  that. 
As  we  did  most  other  activities. 

Chairman  Specter.  General  Singlaub,  by  all  legal  interpreta- 
tions the  United  States  is  a  party  to  that  contract,  at  least  a  third 
party  beneficiary,  has  obligations,  has  benefits. 

General  SlNGLAUB.  That's  right. 

Chairman  Specter.  The  United  States  government  recognized 
that  in  this  death  gratuity  release  saying  that  they  wanted  to  be 
absolved  from  all  claims  because  they  do  have  obligations;  other- 
wise this  language  would  be  meaningless. 

General  Singlaub.  Well  it  was  to  establish  the  fact  that  we  do 
not  have  an  obligation.  That's  why  it  was  signed  in  that  way. 

Chairman  Specter.  It  was  to  establish  the  fact  that  there  would 
be  no  obligation  after  there  was  a  release  by 

General  Singlaub.  That's  correct. 

Chairman  Specter  [continuing].  These  parties  who  got  this  sum 
of  money,  acknowledging  that  there  was  an  obligation  prior  to  the 
release.  What's  the  point  of  having  a  release  from  an  obligation  if 
there  is  no  obligation? 

General  Singlaub.  It's  a  quit  claim.  It's  to  establish  the  fact  that 
the  United  States  does  not  have  an  obligation. 

Chairman  Specter.  Well,  the  United  States  government  is  pay- 
ing money  to  release  them  from  an  obligation  which  they  recognize. 
General  Singlaub,  do  you  think  the  Administration  is  paying 
money  here  that  they  have  no  obligation  to  pay,  as  Senator  Kerry 
testified  here  earlier  today?  Or  if  the  United  States  government 
does  go  ahead  and  pay  this  money  to  these  men,  that  they  are  pay- 
ing money  they  have  no  legal  obligation  to  pay. 

General  Singlaub.  Well,  I  think  there  is  some  confusion  that's 
come  into  this.  The  death  gratuity  that  you  are  talking  to  here  has 
nothing  to  do  with  OP35.  The  individual  who  came  forward — I 
mean  OP34  ALPHA.  He  was  a  member  of  OP35.  And  OP35  was 
in  fact  an  American  commanded  organization  which  did  cross  bor- 
der operations  in  Laos 


Chairman  Specter.  So  you  are  saying  as  to  Mr.  Son,  the  United 
States  did  have  an  obligation  as  to  him. 

General  SlNGLAUB.  Yes.  Yes.  Because  he  worked  in  OP35.  I  don't 
know  why  he  is  included  in  this  group. 

Chairman  SPECTER.  Well,  so  there  were  some  South  Vietnamese 
where  the  United  States  did  have  an  obligation  even  under  your 

General  SlNGLAUB.  Oh,  yes. 

Chairman  Specter.  Well,  how  many  were  they? 

General  SlNGLAUB.  I  don't  have  an  exact  figure.  But  it  is  consid- 
erably more  than  the  limited  number  who  were  in  the  OP34  pro- 
gram. These  individuals  were  part  of  the  cross  border  operations, 
organized  in  teams  of  12.  Three  Americans  and  nine  indigenous. 
Some  of  the  teams  were  Vietnamese,  ethnically  Vietnamese.  Most 
of  them  were  various  tribes  of  Montagnard.  And  some  were  Cam- 
bodian. But  that  was  different  operation  and  was  one  that  was  in 
fact  run  by,  and  commanded  by  Americans. 

Chairman  SPECTER.  Well,  I  had  understood  from  your  earlier  tes- 
timony that  people  like  Mr.  Son,  were  not  entitled  to  any  payment 
from  the  United  States  because  it  was  a  South  Vietnamese  oper- 
ation. But  now  you  are  saying  that  some  of  these  South  Vietnam- 
ese commandos  or  team  members,  whatever  you  call  them,  were 
operating  under  U.S.  auspices  and  did  have  a  claim  against  the 
United  States. 

General  SlNGLAUB.  That  is  correct. 

Chairman  Specter.  Why  in  the  case  of  Mr.  Son? 

General  SlNGLAUB.  When  you  read  that,  I  thought  that  was  from 
one  of  the  commandos.  It  was  not  from  one  of  the  commandos.  It 
was  from  Mr.  Son.  Who,  by  his  statement,  was  a  member  of  OP35, 
which  was  a  completely  different  program.  And  there  are — it  was 
a  much  larger  program  than  the  OP34. 

Chairman  SPECTER.  Well,  dealing  with  Mr.  Son's  unit  for  just  a 
moment,  we've  heard  him  testify  about  being  in  jail  for  almost  20 
years.  And  you  have  a  representation  by  the  United  States  govern- 
ment here  that  he  is  dead,  because  they  are  paying  a  death  gratu- 
ity. And  they  are  paying  him  for  twelve  months.  Was  that  a  fair 
thing  to  do?  Was  that  the  total  U.S.  obligation  to  write  him  off  as 
dead  when  he  was  in  fact  alive. 

General  SlNGLAUB.  We  did  not  know  that  he  was  alive. 

Chairman  SPECTER.  Well  did  you  know  that  he  was  dead? 

General  SlNGLAUB.  Yes. 

Chairman  Specter.  How  could  you  know  he  was  dead  when  he 
was  alive? 

General  SlNGLAUB.  He  was  presumed  dead  which  is  a 

Chairman  Specter.  It's  a  convenient  way  of  getting  him  off  the 

General  SlNGLAUB.  Pardon? 

Chairman  Specter.  It's  a  convenient  way  of  getting  him  off  the 
rolls.  How  do  you  presume  he  is  dead  when  there  is  no  effort  made 
to  find  out  what  happened  to  him  or  where  he  is? 

General  SlNGLAUB.  I  reject  the  idea  that  there  was  no  effort 
made  to  find  out  where  he  was.  If  he  was 

Chairman  Specter.  What  effort  was  there  made  to  find  out  what 
happened  to  Mr.  Son? 


General  SlNGLAUB.  Those  teams  would  send  patrols  back  in  and 
look,  search  the  area.  He  never  came  up  on  any  captured  list.  And 
so  he  was  assumed  to  have  been  killed  in  the  fight  that  took  place 
when  his  team  was — encountered  the  enemy. 

Chairman  SPECTER.  Well,  General  Singlaub,  those  captured  lists 
were  hardly  conclusive  as  to  what  had  happened  to  the  individuals. 
It  doesn't  rule  out  his  being  taken  prisoner  and  being  in  jail  which 
in  fact  he  was.  Does  it? 

General  Singlaub.  Well,  no;  that's  true.  The  same  thing  applies 
to  the  Americans.  One  of  the  programs  within  MACSOG  was  in- 
volving with  E&E.  The  evasion  and  escape  operations.  We  had  the 
Joint  Personnel  Recovery  Center,  as  a  part  of  activities.  And  we 
kept  track  of  every  American  that  was  captured,  or  listed  as  miss- 
ing in  action.  And  we  made  efforts  to  retrieve  some  of  those.  And 
we  certainly  did  it  on  those  OP35  people.  Because  they  were  close 
in.  And  we  ran  operations  to  locate  them  at  the  time.  We  ran  res- 
cue operations. 

Now,  I  don't  know  the  exact  reason,  but  in  most  cases,  but  when 
someone  was  declared  dead,  it  was  because  a  fellow  team  member 
who  was  rescued  said  that  he  saw  him  dead  or  seriously  wounded 
and  they  could  not  bring  him  out. 

Chairman  Specter.  But  of  course  you  don't  know  whether  that 
happened  in  Mr.  Son's  case. 

General  SlNGLAUB.  No,  I  do  not  know  that. 

Chairman  Specter.  General  Singlaub,  do  you  think  Mr.  Son  was 
fairly  treated.? 

General  Singlaub.  In  view  of  the  fact  that  he  was  captured  and 
spent  a  lot  of  time  in  prison,  I  cannot  say  that  he  was  fairly  treat- 

Chairman  SPECTER.  Do  you  think  the  United  States  Government 
has  an  obligation  to  do  more  than  pay  him  for  the  12  months  paid 
under  this  death  gratuity? 

General  Singlaub.  I  think  that  the  United  States  is  a  very  gen- 
erous and  compassionate  society  and  we  try  to  do  what  is  correct. 
Not  only  what  the  contract  specifies. 

Chairman  SPECTER.  My  question  to  you  was  do  you  think  the 
United  States  government  has  an  obligation  to  pay  him  for  more 
than  the  twelve  months  under  this  death  gratuity? 

General  Singlaub.  In  view  of  the  fact  that  he  was  not  killed,  yes. 

Chairman  Specter.  I  would  yield  now  to  Senator  Kerrey.  I  have 
an  obligation,  that  I'm  going  to  have  to  excuse  myself  for  about  15 
or  20  minutes  but  I  will  return  as  soon  as  I  can. 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  I'll  manage  for  20  minutes.  General,  be- 
fore I  get  into  some  questions,  I  may,  since  I'm  now  in  charge,  ask 
one  of  the  other  witnesses  to  come  back  up  that  I  didn't  have  a 
chance  to  ask  questions  in  my  absence. 

But  one  of  the  things  I  think  is  important  to  set  here  is  that  in 
1972  both  the  Republican  and  the  Democratic  convention  endorsed 
platforms  that  said  the  United  States  should  get  out  of  Vietnam. 
And  in  1975  we  got  out  of  Vietnam.  And  most  of  the  newspapers 
in  America  and  many,  I  would  say  a  majority  of  Americans  said  get 
out,  don't  go  back,  turn  your  backs,  forget  it. 

I  mean,  that's  the  historical  context  as  I  see  it.  We  ignored  what 
was  going  on  in  Cambodia.  We  ignored  commitments  that  we  made 


to  the  Hmong  in  Laos.  We  ignored  most  especially  the  commitment 
that  we  had  made  to  the  South  Vietnamese  to  stay  with  them  re- 
gardless of  what  happened.  I  mean  that's  the  political  context  of 
'72.  '73.  '74.  '75.  I  think  one  has  to  be  a  bit  careful  in  just  pulling 
this  one  historical  event  here,  completely  out  of  context.  I  mean,  I 
visited  Vietnam  in  '89  and  '90.  And  in  '90  I  had  the  occasion  to  ask 
the  communist  leaders  in  the  North  about  the  South  Vietnamese, 
the  ARVN  soldiers,  and  their  treatment  of  ARVN  soldiers,  which 
has  been  atrocious.  Which  has  been  brutal.  The  reconciliation  has 
not  occurred.  The  denial  of  human  rights.  The  denial  of  civil  rights. 
The  denial  of  all  opportunities  for  jobs,  for  education,  even  after  the 
re-education  camp  and  the  torture  and  the  mistreatment  after  the 
war  itself  was  over  is  all  sort  of  air-brushed  away  by  the  com- 
munist leaders  in  the  North. 

So  I  asked  them  this,  about  whether  or  not  they  were  going  to 
reconcile.  And  they  said,  well  we  have  a  man  who  is  in  the  assem- 
bly when  you  go  down  to  Ho  Chi  Minh  City.  We'll  set  up  a  meeting. 
And  I  met  with  this  man  in  his  office  in  Saigon  and  he  said  to  me 
coming  out  of  his  office,  something  that  was  not  quite  an  epiphany 
for  me.  but  certainly  it  opened  my  eyes  to  what  we  had  done.  And 
he  said,  quite  simply,  we  believed  you.  We  believed  you  when  you 
said  you  were  going  to  stay  with  us. 

I  mean,  the  window  was  closed.  The  door  was  shut  from  '75  on. 
And  so  for  us  to  come  back  now  and  say  that  this  was  the  CIA  who 
did  all  this,  or  the  DOD  that  did  all  this,  America  shut  the  door. 
There  was  a  genocide  in  Cambodia  we  ignored  because  we  didn't 
want  to  go  back  into  Southeast  Asia.  We  didn't  want  to  get  in- 
volved in  all  of  that.  There  were  protests  allowing  the  boat  people 
to  come  to  the  United  States  of  America.  They  weren't  always  wel- 
come in  many  communities.  And  still.  I  think  there  is  an  unwilling- 
ness to  face  the  general  suffering  amongst  the  people  in  the  South. 

Anyway,  I  just  set  that  down  as  a  very  brief  analysis,  or  state- 
ment of  context  for  this  particular  discussion. 

One  of  the  things  that  I  would  like  to  inquire  about  and  it  may 
require  Mr.  Son  to  come  back  up  as  well,  I'm  not  sure,  or  at  least 
it  may  require  some  responses,  and  if  it  does.  I  would  be  pleased 
to  have  him  and  Mr.  Tourison  to  come  up  as  well.  It  appears  that 
these  operations — you  were  the  head  of  MACSOG,  when  did  you 
take  over  head  of  MACSOG  did  you  say° 

General  SlNGLAUB.  In  May  of  1966. 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  In  May  of  1966.  So  I  can't — I'm  looking 
at  the  list  of  commandos  that  are  attending  the  hearing  today  and 
they  go  back,  I  presume,  that  there  was  an  operation  in  '64,  I  pre- 
sume the  date  of  incarceration  is  the  day  of  the  operation.  I  pre- 
sume that's  the  case.  I  see  someone  nodding  back  over  here. 

General  Senglaub.  In  many  cases  that  was  true,  but  many  of  the 
teams  lasted  for  weeks  or  months  so  it's  not  an  exact 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  So  I  see  an  operation  in  '64,  purses 
rolled  up  in  1964,  the  mission  failed;  '65  also  captured,  incarcer- 
ated; '66  captured,  incarcerated,  two  more,  three  more,  '64,  another 
'65.  '62.  '62.  The  question  is  that  I  have  is,  number  one,  what  hap- 
pened? Why  were  they  captured?  Were  they  given  up  by  their  own 
people?  Was  this — were  these  missions  compromised?  Did  they 
merely  get  exposed  when  they  went  in  the  North? 


And  secondly,  why  did — if  they  were  failing  all  the  time,  why 
weren't  they  stopped?  Why  weren't  they  stopped?  Why  did  we  con- 
tinue them  in  the  face  of  this  kind  of  failure? 

General  Senglaub.  Those  are  good  questions.  And  certainly  ques- 
tions that  I  asked  when  I  took  command  and  asked  several  times 
afterwards.  And  I  believe  it  was  after  I  came  back  and  briefed  the 
Joint  Chiefs  of  Staff  in  the  summer  of  1968,  that  they  did  allow  us 
to  terminate  them.  There  was  great  pressure  from  the  Administra- 
tion to  keep  those  assets  alive.  They  wanted  to  indicate  that  we 
had  intelligence  forces  in  North  Vietnam.  When  I  was  briefed  in 
early  1966  out  at  the  CIA  headquarters,  we  went  over  all  the 
teams.  They  gave  their  views  of  whether  they  were  viable  or  not. 
In  most  cases  they  were  not.  But,  in  analyzing  what  went  wrong, 
the  assumption  was  there  was  some  problem  with  operational  secu- 
rity. Operational  security  was  changed. 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  Mr.  Son  and  Mr.  Tourison  would  you 
mind  coming  back  up  again  so  I  can  perhaps  ask  some — I  apolo- 
gize. I  was  not  here  when  Mr.  Son  provided  testimony.  Does  he  re- 
quire an  interpreter? 

Mr.  Tourison.  He  speaks  English.  If  you  keep  the  questions  sim- 
ple and  direct,  Senator,  he  will  pick  up. 

Vice  Chairman  KERREY.  Mr.  Son  can  you  describe  the  cir- 
cumstances under  which  you  were  captured  in  1967.  is  that  cor- 

Mr.  Son.  Please  repeat. 

Vice  Chairman  KERREY.  You  were  part  of  an  operation — you 
went  on  an  operation  in  1967. 

Mr.  Son.  Yes. 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  And  you  were  captured  by  North  Viet- 
namese forces. 

Mr.  Son.  Yes. 

Vice  Chairman  KERREY.  Can  you  describe  the  circumstances  of 
your  capture  and  why  you  believe  you  were  captured? 

Mr.  Son.  I  went  operation  with  my  team. 

Vice  Chairman  KERREY.  How  many  men  on  the  team? 

Mr.  SON.  Eight  members.  Three  American.  Three  American,  is 
team  leader,  vice  team  leader  and  one,  the  other  man  I  think  he 
did  transmission. 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  And  you  were — just  to  respond  earlier, 
General  Singlaub,  he  was  a  member  of  OPLAN  35? 

General  SlNGLAUB.  That's  correct.  Cross  border  operations  which 
was  a  completely  separate  operation  that- 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  You  would  recognize 

General  Singlaub  [continuing].  Was  handling. 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  You  would  recognize  him  as  a  U.S.  em- 
ployee. If  he's  OPLAN  35  he's  a  U.S.  employee? 

General  Senglaub.  That's  correct. 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  Any  why  wasn't  he  asked  for  in  the 
Paris  conference  in  '73? 

General  Slnglaub.  He  was  presumed  dead.  One  of  his  team 
members  who  did  survive,  apparently  indicated  that — assumed 
that  he  was  dead. 

"  Vice   Chairman   KERREY.   Mr.   Tourison,   vou   are   shaking  vour 
head  uno"? 


Mr.  Tourison.  I  have  spoken  with — the  team  interpreter  hap- 
pens to  be  in  California.  The  incident  where  Mr.  Son  was  lost  was 
a  distressed  incident,  and  was  so  distressful  for  the  family  of  Mas- 
ter Sergeant  Ronald  Dexter  who  was  one  of  MACSOG's  own  NCOs. 
They  lost  their  first  helicopter,  they  had  to  transfer  over  to  a  sec- 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  They  inserted  by  helicopter? 

Mr.  Tourison.  Yes,  sir. 

Vice  Chairman  KERREY.  Two  helicopters? 

Mr.  TOURISON.  They  were  inserted  by  helicopter.  And  got  into  a 
firefight  within  the  first  24  hours. 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  Do  you  know  enough  detail?  When  was 
it  in  '67? 

Mr.  Tourison.  July  1967. 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  Did  they  go  in  at  night,  in  daytime? 

Mr.  Tourison.  They  went  in  during  the  daytime.  Set  up  their  pa- 
trol base  along  the  ridge  line.  Next  morning  got  into  combat. 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  And  where  exactly  did  they  land? 

Mr.  TOURISON.  I  believe  it  was  in  Savannahkhet  Province,  Laos. 
The  next  day  they  called  for  an  air  extraction.  The  first  helicopter 
could  not  get  them  out.  They  brought  in  another  helicopter.  The 
helicopter  was  shot  down.  They  crashed  in  the  center  of  a  North 
Vietnamese  ammunition  depot.  Of  the  11  Vietnamese  who  were 
aboard  the  helicopter,  and  they  were  the  only  Vietnamese  on  board 
the  helicopter,  10  were  taken  prisoner,  the  11th  was  crushed  to 
death  underneath  the  rear  ramp  of  the  Chinook.  Two  Americans 
were  taken  prisoner.  Ronald  Dexter,  Master  Sergeant,  United 
States  Army,  Special  Forces,  and  United  States  Marine  Corps 
Lance  Corporal  Frank  Cius. 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  And  were  these  two  men  a  part  of  the 
prisoner  release? 

Mr.  TOURISON.  Corporal  Cius  was  repatriated,  Ronald  Dexter 
was  not  accounted  for  then,  and  I  believe  to  this  very  day  has 
never  been  accounted  for.  The  Defense  Attache  office 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  But  both  of  them  were  on  the  list  in 

Mr.  Tourison.  Yes,  sir. 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  And  why  in  your  judgement  was  Mr. 
Son  not  on  the  list? 

Mr.  TOURISON.  I  do  not  understand  why,  particularly  with  Gen- 
eral Singlaub's  statement,  that  these  were  clearly,  in  the  case  of 
the  OPLAN  35,  those  lost  in  cross  border  operations  in  Laos — and 
they  lost  hundreds  of  men — and  the  evidence  of  death  is  not  there. 
No  one  was  taken,  no  one  returned  from  that  downed  helicopter. 
Ronald  Dexter  was  listed  as  missing  in  action.  Kept  on  the  books. 
Name  was  there.  Frank  Cius.  Kept  on  the  books,  name  was  there. 
Frank  Cius  returned  alive.  Ronald  Dexter  is  yet  to  be,  has  yet  to 
be  returned.  But  all  the  Vietnamese  on  that  team  that  survived,  of 
the  ten,  only  Ha  Van  Son  was  kept  in  North  Vietnam.  Other  agents 
were  repatriated  in  the  spring  of  1973  as  political  prisoners.  Colo- 
nel "Bull"  Simons  went  to  the  United  States  Court  of  Federal 
Claims  in  Honolulu,  Hawaii  and  got  back  pay.  From  date  of  cap- 
ture until  date  of  return.  That  was  paid  by  a  United  States  Army 
officer  in  Saigon.  A  U.S.  Army  interpreter,  Bill  Bell,  who  you  may 


be  familiar  with  from  his  service  later  on  in  Hanoi,  executed — 
translated  the  quit  claim  agreement  in  Honolulu,  Hawaii  in  the 
spring  of  1973,  after  the  Pacific  Command  ruled  Colonel  Bill  Si- 
mons got  money  from  the  United  States  Court  of  Federal  Claims. 
Back  pay.  Civilian  and  regular  Defense  group.  Date  of  capture  to 
date  of  return.  But  not  for  Ha  Van  Son.  Because  he  was  the  only 
member  of  his  ten  man  team  to  survive  that  was  not  repatriated. 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  Who  was  in  charge  of  the  team? 

Mr.  Tourison.  Master  Sergeant  Ronald  Dexter  on  the  U.S.  side. 
He  was  beaten  to  death,  on  the  evidence  we  have,  when  he  was  in 
North  Vietnam  before  they  got  to  the  Hanoi  Hilton. 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  So  a  U.S.  Army  Special  Forces  Sergeant 
was  in  charge  of  the  team? 

Mr.  TOURISON.  Yes,  sir.  Frank  Cius  was  a  door  gunner  on  the 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  And  what  do  you  view  as  the  cause  of 
their  being  compromised?  Did  they  just  fly  into  an  area 

Mr.  TOURISON.  In  this  case,  Senator,  they  got  into  a  hot  area.  It 
happened  many,  many  times.  They  did  not  necessarily  know  they 
were  coming.  Except  for  one  thing.  There  was  a  mole.  And  General 
Singlaub  looked  for  the  mole.  The  record  on  that  is  clear.  General 
Singlaub  tried  for  2  years.  His  predecessors  had  tried.  Who  was  the 
mole?  Who  are  the  people  on  the  inside?.  And  they  couldn't  find 
them.  One  month  after  my  book  was  released,  Vietnam's  Interior 
Ministry  placed  the  mole  on  Vietnamese  national  television. 
Former  South  Vietnamese  Army  Colonel,  Lt.  Col.  Do  Van  Tien, 
deputy  chief  of  covert  operations  into  North  Vietnam,  recruited  by 
the  South  Vietnamese  in  1956.  He  admitted  that  he  during  the 
length  of  the  entire  program  had  compromised  to  North  Vietnam's 
intelligence  service  the  prior  landing  site  of  all  teams  sent  into 
North  Vietnam. 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  Is  there  any  chance  in  your  mind  that 
the  people  for  whom  we  are  considering  to  pay  a  claim  could  be 
that  mole? 

Mr.  Tourison.  No,  sir. 

Vice  Chairman  KERREY.  Why  do  you  say  that?  What's  the  evi- 
dence of  that  conclusion? 

Mr.  Tourison.  Colonel  Gilbert  Layton,  who  passed  away  re- 
cently, was  involved  with  covert  operations  in  South  Vietnam  and 
always  felt  during  his  period  in  South  Vietnam  in  the  early  1960s 
working  for  Bill  Colby,  that  10%  could  have  been  working  for  the 
North  Vietnamese.  But  he  felt  he  had  an  edge  on  them  of  nine  to 
one.  I  have  talked  with  all  of  these  agents  who  are  here  today.  I 
have  talked  to  nearly  every  survivor  and  next  to  100  next  of  kin. 
I  know  what  these  people  went  through.  I  have  tracked  each  of 
them  year  by  year  through  the  prison  system.  I  know  who  was 
there,  I  know  who  was  not.  If  Vietnam's  Interior  Ministry  had  re- 
cruited one  of  these  people  and  sent  them  over  to  the  United  States 
after  they  got  out  of  prison.  Senator  anything  is  possible.  I  think 
it's  unlikely. 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  But  no  hard  evidence.  I  mean  one  con- 
versation, and  an  estimate.  No  evidence  that  would  stand  up  in  a 
serious  counterintelligence  evaluation,  investigation. 


Mr.  TOURISON.  There  are  two,  one  of  the  first  agents  that  Wil- 
liam Colby  sent  to  North  Vietnam,  Agent  ARIES  was  a  double 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  What's  your  view — I  presume  you  have 
some  knowledge  of  U.S.  involvement  in  training  the  Hmong. 

Mr.  Tourison.  No,  sir.  I  was  the  intelligence  liaison  officer  with 
the  Royal  Army  intelligence  staff  and  essentially  just  as  General 
Singlaub  worked  with  the  South  Vietnamese  in  the  covert  oper- 
ations, I  handled  Royal  Army  interrogation  operations  in  Vientiane 
essentially  between  1971  and  1974,  though  my  actual  full  time 
time  of  arrival  was  March  of  '71.  I  also  handled  two  military  re- 
gions in  Laos:  military  region  one,  military  region  five,  and  was  re- 
sponsible for  overseeing  the  production  of  all  interrogation  reports 
that  we,  in  a  very  small  team,  the  Laos  Exploitation  Team,  did  be- 
tween 1971-1974  during  my  stewardship. 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  I  presume  when  this  bill  is  taken  and 
referred  to  either  Judiciary  or  Armed  Services  that  they  can  take 
up  the  question  about  both  the  legality  of  the  claim  and  the  poten- 
tial widening  of  the  claim.  I  mean  that  is  a  great  fear  that  we've 
got  here.  And  I  think  it's  very  important  for  us  to  respond  here  in 
a  very  straight  forward  fashion  and  not  get  kind  of  caught  up  in 
the  mire  of  guilt  that  we  understandably  feel  about  the  damage 
done  to  these  individuals.  I  think  it  is  very  important  that  we  un- 
derstand that  we  have  U.S.  law  that  we  are  dealing  with  and  deal 
with  it,  as  I  said,  in  a  very  straight  forward  fashion  that  is  con- 
scious of  what  could  follow  if  these  awards  are  made,  and  conscious 
as  well  of  what  the  citizens  themselves  would  like  us  to  do. 

I  would  just  like  to  explore  if  I  could,  this  idea  that  the  oper- 
ations were  continued.  Now  General,  you  said  you  asked  for  them 
to  stop  and  as  I  see  on  the  sheet  there  is  only  one  in  1970.  So  you 
are  saying  that  about  after  '68  the  counter  border  operations 

General  Singlaub.  The  cross  border  operations  were  increasing 
at  that  time,  because  they  were  very  successful.  The  operations 
into  North  Vietnam  had  not  been  successful  from  the  outset.  We 
know  now  that  is  was  because  of  a  high  placed  mole  in  the  South 
Vietnamese  government  that  was  tipping  off  the  North  Vietnam- 
ese. Changes  in  operations  security  didn't  have  an  impact  on  that. 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  Mr.  Son,  I  was  asking  you  and  I 

General  Singlaub.  The  point  is  that  Mr.  Son  was  not  a  part  of 
that  program.  He  was  in  a  program  that  continued  right  up  until 
the  time  that  we  started  our  withdrawal. 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  And  by  the  way,  I  can  reach  no  other 
conclusion,  when  answering  my  own  question,  as  to  why  they  were 
not  included  and  Americans  were  included  on  the  list  that  was  pre- 
sented in  '73  in  Paris  is  that  they  are  Vietnamese  and  so  they  are 
not  on  the  list.  I  mean  if  he  is  a  U.S.  employee  we  would  not  take 
a  single  individual,  saying  well,  Lt.  Kerrey  was  killed.  I  saw  him 
die.  A  single  individual  testifying  to  my  death  as  a  casualty  would 
not  be  sufficient  to  keep  me  off  a  list.  The  U.S.  would  investigate 
further  and  make  sure  that  they  verified  with  more  than  just  one 
eye  witness.  Again,  I  take  that  back  to  what  I  said  earlier.  I  do 
think,  from  1975  to  1995,  you  know,  including  Robert  McNamara's 
rather  remarkable  mea  culpa,  going  over  to  Hanoi  and  having  an 
interview  with  General  Giap  and  saying  what  the  hell  did  happen 


in  August  of  1964,  after  coming  to  Congress  and  saying  I  have  in- 
controvertible evidence  that  indicates  that  we  were  attacked.  So  I 
mean  I  do  think  this  is  something  that  just  can't  be  laid  at  the 
doorstep  of  our  negotiators  and  Mr.  Kissinger  in  particular.  As  I 
said,  I  can  reach  no  other  conclusion  other  than  to  say  that  if  Mr. 
Son's  name  was  Bob  Kerrey,  serial  number  723089,  that  he  would 
have  been  on  the  list.  They  would  not  have  accepted  a  single  wit- 
ness. And  as  I  said,  I  think  that  was  unfortunately  and  tragically 
a  general  attitude  held  in  the  entire  country,  the  entire  United 
States,  and  it  does  make  us  in  1996  not  look  altogether  good  in 
that  regard. 

General,  you  were  not  responsible  for  taking  this  action,  but  I 
must  say  that  I,  I  find  myself  reaching  that  conclusion  and  it's  not 
a  very  happy  conclusion  and  it's  not  a  very  proud  conclusion. 

General  SlNGLAUB.  I  bring  up  the  point  again,  though,  that  we 
have  to  make  the  distinction  between  the  two  types  of  operations 
that  we  were  talking  about.  Mr.  Son  was  in  an  operation  that  was 
run  by  the  Americans  clearly,  and  I  don't  know  whether  or  not  his 
name  was  on  the  list 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  Was  not. 

General  SlNGLAUB.  You  know  that? 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  Not  on  the  72  Paris  list.  He  was  not  pre- 
sented as  a  POW. 

General  SlNGLAUB.  Of  course,  I  have  no  idea  what  criteria  was 
established  to  put  them  on  the  list. 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  That's  the  point  I  am  making.  Obviously 
the  criteria  was  lower  for  an  ARVN  than  it  was  for  a  U.S.  soldier. 

General  Singlaub.  That's  right. 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  Mr.  Son,  can  you  tell  me  in  your  own 
words  why  you  think  the  operation  failed  that  you  were  on  in — get 
my  number  right — 1967,  July  of  '67. 

Mr.  Son.  When  I  go  on  operation  in  1967 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  Mr.  Son,  excuse  me,  could  you  pull  the 
microphone  just  a  little  closer. 

Mr.  Son.  On  1967  I  was  captured.  After  I  was  capture  because 
that  two  helicopter  were  shot  down  and  when  I  was  capture  I  usu- 
ally believe  that  the  American  government  will  pick  me  out — pick 
me  back.  But  I  think  I  keep  my  belief  until  interview  some  of  my 
friend  got  interview  from  HO  program. 

But  sometime  I  think  the  American  that  run  the  plane  didn't 
take  care  for  me,  because  on  Paris  Agreement  I  think  U.S.  govern- 
ment have  negotiate  with  the  government  communist.  What  I 
didn't  know  maybe  Mr.  Singlaub.  Right  now  I  know  him.  Before 
time  I  didn't  know  him  because  I  am  only  a  team  member.  Right 
now  I  know  you.  You  are  major  colonel.  But  I  think  you  did  your 
work  with  the  responsibility.  You  didn't  think  about  what  you  do. 

And  so  that  I  didn't  know  how  can  I  tell  with  you  what  right  now 
I  talk  about  my  life  with  everybody,  and  with  the  Senators  office, 
because  I  think  the  USA,  the  United  States  of  American  is  good  na- 
tion and  that  is  my  deal  when  I  was  young.  But  sometime  there 
is  somebody  to  do  something  with  the  responsibility.  So  that  when 
I  came  here  I  related  with  my  friend.  Every  commando  they  were 
put  in  jail  with  me,  all  the  time  about  20  year  over,  I  say  with  my 
friend.  We  had  to  fight.  Right  now  we  had  to  fight.  But  sometimes 


we  fight  for  freedom  and  defeat  the  communists.  Right  now  we 
have  to  fight  for  our  honor. 

The  problem  is  not  only  the  money.  No  money  pay  for  my  life. 
But  I  think  my  honor  and  my  friends  honor  must  be  recognition, 
get  recognition.  And  money  I  think  does  of  course.  And  I  want  to 
talk  with  everybody  about  some  leader  didn't  think  about  the  man 
who  fight  for  the  freedom. 

That's  all. 

Vice  Chairman  Kerrey.  Well,  Mr.  Chairman,  as  you  can  see,  I 
asked  the  other  witness  to  come  back  up  because  I  was  not  here 
earlier  and  I  am  pretty  much  done  in  my  questioning,  and  I  make 
it  clear  that  what  I  said  earlier,  that  U.S.  officials  requesting  our 
prisoners  in  1973  did  not  include  an  employee  of  the  U.S.  govern- 
ment that  all  four  parties  had  a  responsibility  here,  as  well  as  the 
South  Vietnamese  government,  to  present  their  list  of  people  that 
they  believed  were  still  being  held,  and  there  is  I  think  perhaps  an 
argument  that  could  be  made  that  the  U.S.  government  might  have 
been  concerned  about  the  treatment  of  South  Vietnamese  nations 
if  we  were  to  say  to  the  North  Vietnamese,  here's  a  list  of  people 
and  included  on  that  list  are  South  Vietnamese  nations.  I  mean, 
I  have  no  reason  to  know  that  that  is  the  case,  but  one  could  cer- 
tainly argue  that  this  may  have  been  a  U.S.  concern  at  that  time. 

Nonetheless,  it  seems  to  me  still  to  be  the  case  that  the  United 
States  should  have  argued  for  the  release  of  allies  who  were  on  a 
mission  headed  by  U.S.  forces. 

Anyway,  I  appreciate  the  witnesses  testimony,  Mr.  Chairman,  I 
appreciate  the  hearing  and  the  opportunity  to  ask  the  questions. 

Chairman  Specter.  Thank  you  very  much,  Senator  Kerrey. 

Mr.  Son,  I  think  your  last  statement  about  honor  is  a  very,  very 
important  one,  and  I  commend  you  for  making  it. 

General  Singlaub,  let's  go  back  to  the  point  about  the  distinction 
between  these  two  categories  of  units.  I  think  you  classified  them 

34  and  35? 

General  SlNGLAUB.  That's  correct;  yes,  sir. 

Chairman  Specter.  Mr.  Son  is  in  the  Unit  35,  where  the  United 
States  government,  even  under  your  interpretation,  was  a  party  to 
the  arrangement? 

General  SlNGLAUB.  They  were  recruited,  trained  by  Americans, 
and  led  by  Americans  in  that  program  in  cross  border  operations, 
primarily  along  the  Ho  Chi  Minh  Trail. 

Chairman  Specter.  And  you  testified  that  you  think  there  was 
an  obligation  on  the  part  of  the  United  States  government  to  men 
like  Mr.  Son  who  were  in  a  35  contingency? 

General  SlNGLAUB.  Absolutely.  Many  Americans  lost  their  lives 
trying  to  recover  team  members  who  were  separated  from  their 
team  in  an  insertion  or  in  a  conflict  that  took  place  after  insertion. 
We  felt  very  strongly  that  these  were  members  of  our  overall  effort, 
and  we  had  complete  control  of  them,  and  I  cannot — just  because 
I  don't  know  what  the  criteria  was  for  putting  the  names  of  the  Vi- 
etnamese and  the  other  non-Vietnamese  indigenous  people  who 
worked  on  these  teams  on  the  list  at  Geneva — or  at  Paris,  I  mean. 

Chairman  Specter.  Do  you  think  that  men  like  Mr.  Son  in  Unit 

35  should  have  been  people  whom  the  United  States  government 
pressed  to  have  released  by  North  Vietnam? 


General  SiNGLAUB.  I  am  amazed  that  this  name  was  not  on  it. 
I  only  can  assume  that  he  was  presumed  dead  and  therefore  was 
not  listed  as  an  MIA. 

Chairman  Specter.  When  you  come  to  the  question  of  presump- 
tion of  death,  which  is  a  complex  legal  subject  in  some  jurisdic- 
tions— it's  a  matter  of  time,  7  years  not  having  been  heard  from; 
questions  about  rebuttable  presumptions — what  were  the  stand- 
ards, presuming  somebody  like  Mr.  Son  to  be  dead? 

General  SiNGLAUB.  I  do  not  know.  That  was  generally  handled 
by  the  Vietnamese  and  they  had  their  legal  advisors  on  that. 

Chairman  Specter.  Well,  it  was  more  than  the  Vietnamese.  It 
was  a  conclusion  which  was  joined  in  by  the  United  States  under 
this  death  gratuity.  There  was  a  conclusion  by  the  United  States 
government  that  Mr.  Son  was  dead — death  gratuity. 

General  SiNGLAUB.  Yes,  but  that  was  a  case  not  of — after  a  long 
period  of  time.  The  nature  of  the  action  in  which  he  was  ultimately 
captured  was  such  that  everybody  was  lost,  as  I  learn  now  from 
Mr.  Tourison,  and  I  still  don't  know  the  name  of  this  team,  which 
might  have 

Mr.  Tourison.  Team  Illinois. 

General  Singlaub.  Illinois. 

Chairman  Specter.  But  why  would  the  conclusion  be  that  every- 
one was  lost?  Where  there  is  combat,  some  are  lost,  or  killed,  oth- 
ers are  taken 

General  SiNGLAUB.  I  believe  you  were  out  of  the  room  when  Mr. 
Tourison  went  over  the  operation  in  which  two  helicopters  were 
shot  down,  they  crashed,  and  eventually 

Chairman  Specter.  Does  that  relate  to  Mr.  Son,  Mr.  Tourison? 

Mr.  Tourison.  Yes,  sir.  I  would  be  happy  to  repeat  it,  Senator, 
if  you  would  like. 

Chairman  Specter.  Would  you? 

Mr.  Tourison.  In  July  of  1967,  after  several  days  of  skirmishing 
in  Laos,  a  Chinook  helicopter  attempting  to  remove  Vietnamese 
team  members  was  finally  shot  down  and  crash  landed  in  the  cen- 
ter of  a  North  Vietnamese  ammunition  depot. 

Chairman  SPECTER.  Was  Mr.  Son  in  that  helicopter? 

Mr.  TOURISON.  He  was  in  that  helicopter,  as  were  the  pilot,  copi- 
lot, Marine  Master  Sergeant  Ronald  Dexter,  and  a  door  gunner, 
U.S.  Marine  Corps  Lance  Corporal  Cius. 

Chairman  Specter.  And  did  Mr.  Son  confirm  that — Mr.  Son,  did 
you  confirm  that  you  were  in  that  helicopter?  You  were? 

Mr.  Son.  Yeah. 

Chairman  SPECTER.  But  of  course,  you  survived. 

Mr.  Son.  Yeah. 

Chairman  Specter.  Mr.  Son,  did  others  in  that  helicopter  sur- 

Mr.  Son.  Two  American  and  some  Vietnamese  commandos. 

Chairman  Specter.  Well,  all  right,  I  had  not  heard  that,  and  I 
did  have  to  step  out  of  the  room  for  a  few  moments.  Here  we  have 
meetings  going  on  simultaneously  and  hearing  going  on.  It  is  a 
tough  matter  to  cover  them  all. 

But  even  with  the  helicopter  crash,  it  isn't  conclusive  as  to  some- 
body being  killed,  because  people  do  survive  helicopter  crashes. 


But  General  Singlaub,  I  want  to  go  back  to  this  point  about  how 
many  South  Vietnamese  there  were  in  Contingency  35  and  how 
many  there  were  in  Contingency  34,  so  that  the  record  will  be  pre- 
cise as  to  the  two  categories. 

Can  you  give  me  a  ballpark  figure  as  to  how  many  there  were 
in  Contingency  35? 

General  Singlaub.  I  cannot  give  you  an  exact  figure.  I  can  say 

Chairman  Specter.  A  few  hundred? 

General  Singlaub.  No;  it  was  more  than  the  300  that — approxi- 
mately 300  that  we  had  in  the  Op  35  over  the  many  years.  It  was 
a  continually  expanding  program.  There  were,  as  I  have  indicated 
earlier,  ethnically  these  people  were  Vietnamese  and  then  a  variety 
of  Montagnard  tribes  as  well  as  Cambodians.  They  were  handled 
in  different  bases 

Chairman  Specter.  Well,  there  were  several  hundred. 

General  Singlaub.  There  were  several  hundred;  yes,  sir. 

Chairman  Specter.  And  contrasted  with  Contingency  34,  there 
were  several  thousand. 

General  Singlaub.  No.  No.  In  Contingency  34,  ALPHA,  there 
were  approximately  300. 

Chairman  Specter.  And  you  think  the  obligation  of  the  United 
States  differed  with  respect  to  the  people  in  34  contrasted  with  35? 

General  Singlaub.  Yes,  I  do. 

Chairman  Specter.  Well,  all  right.  Taking  up  Unit  35,  you  think 
that  we — the  United  States  government  did  not  discharge  its  re- 
sponsibilities to  those  individuals? 

General  Singlaub.  Well,  until  this  case  came  up,  I  thought  that 
we  had  done  very  well  in  taking  care  of  the  team  members  from 
these  cross  border  operations  under  Operation  35. 

Chairman  Specter.  Director  Deutch  has  been  quoted  as  saying, 
Time  Magazine,  June  24,  1996:  "Last  Week  CIA  Director  John 
Deutch  finally  did  take  responsibility,  realizing  the  revelations 
could  endanger  operations  being  run  today.  Foreign  spies  might 
now  be  far  less  willing  to  take  risks  for  the  CIA  if  the  Agency  got 
a  reputation  for  not  paying  its  bills,"  quote.  "The  CIA  feels  very 
deeply  that  it  must  take  care  of  people  who  work  for  it,  CIA  Gen- 
eral Counsel  Jeffrey  Smith  told  Time." 

With  respect  to  the  statement  attributed  to  Mr.  Deutch,  do  you 
think,  General  Singlaub,  that  as  a  practical  matter,  that  foreign 
spies  might  be  far  less  willing  to  take  risks  for  the  CIA  if  these 
South  Vietnamese  are  not  paid? 

General  SINGLAUB.  I  think  that  that  is  a  valid  concern,  and  if  I 
were  in  Mr.  Deutch's  position,  I  would  take  that — I  would  express 
that  concern. 

Chairman  Specter.  General  Singlaub,  do  you  know  of  any  other 
instance  where  the  United  States  government  has  acted  towards 
men  like  it  acted  toward  Mr.  Son  and  his  colleagues  in  Contingency 

General  Singlaub.  I  do  not  know.  I  cannot — I  know  that  we  have 
conducted  similar  operations  in  other  areas,  and  I  would  suggest 
that  there  might  be  a  bad  precedent  established  here  because  of 
the  numbers  of  people  who  have  participated  in  the  intelligence  op- 
erations of  Korea,  for  example,  in  the  Korean  War. 


Chairman  Specter.  Are  you  suggesting  that  there  is  a  bad  prece- 
dent because  we  treated  people  like  Mr.  Son  unfairly,  or  are  you 
suggesting  there  is  a  bad  precedent  because  we  may  be  paying 
money  which  would  establish  a  precedent  for  future  payments? 

General  SlNGLAUB.  For  future  payments,  yes.  I  am  concerned 
that  there  are  probably  hundreds  of  Koreans  who  would  say  they 
were  in  a  similar  situation.  They  were  recruited  by  the  Korean  gov- 
ernment, but  we  provided  some  support  in  the  training  of  those 
agents.  In  some  case  flew  the  aircraft  that  dropped  them,  or  put 
them  ashore  in  North  Korea. 

Chairman  Specter.  How  about  the  precedent  of  taking  men  like 
Mr.  Son  under  operations  controlled  by  Americans,  and  after  he  is 
captured,  making  no  effort  to  get  him  back,  and  make  a  death  gra- 
tuity payment  for  12  months  and  not  doing  anything  further  to  this 
minute,  notwithstanding  all  this  litigation  and  travail. 

General  SlNGLAUB.  I  have  to  go  back  to  the  point  that  we  did  not 
know  the  actual  situation  of  Mr.  Son  at  the  time.  Certainly  if  we 
had  known  that,  he  should  have  been  placed  on  the  list,  we  should 
have  fought  very  hard  to  have  him  returned.  Why  he  was  not  on 
the  list,  I  can't  answer.  I  was  not  there. 

Chairman  Specter.  Well,  that's  just  to  the  list.  But  Mr.  Son  has 
been  known  to  the  United  States  government  for  a  long  period  of 
time  now — he  is  nodding  yes — looking  for  recognition,  looking  for 
an  acknowledgement  of  unfairness,  and  looking  also  for  the  pay- 
ment of  money  while  he  was  in  captivity.  Any  justification  for  that 
conduct  by  the  United  States  government,  in  your  judgment,  Gen- 
eral Singlaub? 

General  SlNGLAUB.  No;  I — I  cannot  rationalize  that. 

Chairman  Specter.  Okay. 

I  am  told  that  we  also  have  with  us  today  General  Counsel  Jeff 
Smith  of  the  CIA  and  General  Counsel  Mary  DeRosa  of  the  Depart- 
ment of  Defense.  Would  you  step  forward  for  a  moment  or  two? 

Thank  you  very  much,  General  Singlaub;  thank  you  very  much, 
Mr.  Son;  thank  you,  Mr.  Tourison. 

Mr.  Son.  Thank  you. 


Chairman  SPECTER.  Mr.  Smith,  do  you  think  that  Congress 
ought  to  legislate  to  overrule  the  case  of  Totten  v.  the  United 
States,  which  says  that  somehow  lips  are  sealed  in  a  secret  ar- 
rangement and  people  cannot  collect  in  a  Court  of  Claims,  because 
there  is  no  justifiable  issue? 


Mr.  Smith.  It  is  worth  thinking  about,  Mr.  Chairman. 

Chairman  Specter.  Well,  haven't  you  thought  about  it,  Mr. 

Mr.  Smith.  I  have  not  thought  about  a  proposal  that  Congress 
overturn  it  until  you  raised  it  this  morning,  no,  sir. 

Chairman  Specter.  Okay,  I  will  ask  General  Counsel  DeRosa,  to 
give  you  time  to  think  about  it. 

What  do  you  think  about  it,  Ms.  DeRosa? 



Ms.  DeROSA.  Well,  first  I  would  like  to  clarify,  I  am  not  the  Gen- 
eral Counsel,  I  am  in  the  General  Counsel's  Office. 

Chairman  Specter.  Are  you  adverse  to  a  promotion? 

Ms.  DeROSA.  That  would  be  fine  with  me. 

Chairman  Specter.  You  are  a  lawyer  in  the  General  Counsel's 

Ms.  DeROSA.  Yes,  I  am. 

Chairman  SPECTER.  How  about  overruling  Totten  v.  the  United 
States?  Do  you  think  it  takes  the  Congress  to  do  that,  or  can't  the 
Department  of  Justice  recognize  a  126  rule  which  makes  no  sense 
today,  and  pay  the  money? 

Ms.  DeRosa.  I  am  afraid  I  have  not  given  that  any  thought  be- 
fore this  morning  either,  and  I  really  can't  comment. 

Chairman  Specter.  Okay. 

Would  you  care  to  comment,  Mr.  Smith? 

Mr.  Smith.  First  of  all,  Ms.  DeRosa  is  a  former  colleague  of  mine 
at  Arnold  &  Porter,  Mr.  Chairman,  so  I  am  pleased  that  she  is  sit- 
ting beside  me.  But  she  had  not  been  prepared  for  this  surprise 
testimony,  so  I  would  be  happy  to  take  the  bulk  of  your  questions, 
if  I  may. 

Chairman  Specter.  Well,  I  don't  know  about  that.  Is  either  Mr. 
Arnold  or  Mr.  Porter  available? 

Mr.  Smith.  Sadly,  no;  they  are 

Chairman  Specter.  I  know  what  Mr.  Arnold  would  say.  I  think 
he  would  say  it's  an  egregious  rule  and  we're  not  going  to  follow 
it.  He  was  that  kind  of  a  tough,  forthright  guy. 

Mr.  Smith.  I  think  it  is  worth  thinking  about,  Mr.  Chairman.  It 
has  served  us  well  in  that  we  face  a  unique  situation  in  the  espio- 
nage business.  We  enter  into  a  lot  of  agreements  with  individuals 
who  agree  to  work  for  us  to  collect  information  or  to  engage  in  espi- 
onage on  our  behalf.  With  the  vast  majority  of  these  people,  we  do 
not  have  contracts.  That  is  to  say,  a  formal  contract  that  is  signed 
and  sealed  and  delivered.  But  we  have  agreements  with  them,  we 
have  understandings,  we  have  handshakes,  we  have  a  variety  of 
agreements  with  them  that  the  CIA  feels  very  strongly  we  are 
obliged  to  honor.  And  in  some  respects  we  feel  even  stronger  about 
honoring  these  commitments  on  moral  grounds  than  we  would  nec- 
essarily on  legal  grounds. 

Chairman  Specter.  Mr.  Smith,  is  it  really  a  matter,  as  Director 
Deutch  is  quoted  as  saying,  that  foreign  spies  might  be  far  less 
willing  to  take  risks  for  the  CIA  if  the  Agency  got  a  reputation  for 
not  paying  its  bills,  or  is  it  really  a  manner,  as  this  quotation  goes 
to  General  Counsel  Jeffrey  Smith,  who  says  the  CIA  feels  very 
deeply  that  it  must  take  care  of  the  people  who  work  for  it.  Whom 
do  you  vote  for  as  between  Deutch  and  Smith? 

Mr.  Smith.  I  am  not  sure  I  followed  your  question  Mr.  Chairman. 

Chairman  Specter.  Well,  is  the  paramount  issue  here  the  prag- 
matic one  of  encouraging  spies  to  take  risk  with  the  CIA,  as  Direc- 
tor Deutch  is  quoted  as  saying,  or  the  fairness  issue,  which  general 
counsel  Jeffrey  Smith  is  quoted  as  saying? 

Mr.  Smith.  I  don't  see  them  as  mutually  exclusive.  I  think  they 
are  complementary.  We  need  both.  We  ask  people  to  take  great 


risks  for  us,  and  we  have  to  be  prepared  to  honor  our  commitments 
to  them.  And  if  we  don't,  we'd  go  out  of  business  as  a  spy  agency. 

Chairman  Specter.  Well,  I  would  ask  you,  Ms.  DeRosa,  to  take 
the  matter  up  with  your  superiors  at  the  Department  of  Defense, 
and  I  would  ask  you,  Mr.  Smith  to  think  about  it. 

Thank  you  all  very  much.  That  concludes  the  hearing. 

[Thereupon,  at  11:24  a.m.,  the  hearing  was  concluded.] 

[Additional  information  for  the  record  follows:! 

McNamara's  Covert  War:  The  Zenith  of  Deception 

(By  Sedgwick  Tourison) 

The  true  story  about  the  United  States  covert  war  against  North  Viet  Nam  ranks 
among  the  last  most  closely  guarded  secrets  of  the  Viet  Nam  War.  It  was  a  war  con- 
trolled more  by  Ha  Noi  than  by  Washington,  a  silent  struggle  that  under  Robert 
McNamara  led  us  inexorably  into  an  expanded  conflict,  a  conflict  we  call  today  the 
Viet  Nam  War.  It  is  through  our  understanding  of  how  and  why  the  covert  war  was 
doomed  to  fail,  and  the  cover-ups  of  what  actually  happened  32  years  ago,  that  we 
may  begin  to  comprehend  why  the  Viet  Nam  War  expanded  the  way  it  did. 

In  April  1995,  I  watched  Diane  Sawyer's  televised  interview  of  Robert  McNamara. 
Diane  Sawyer  asked  McNamara  if  he  had  lied  to  the  president.  McNamara  re- 
sponded that  he  had  not  lied  to  the  president  because,  as  McNamara  explained,  to 
have  told  a  lie  meant  to  intentionally  deceive  and  that,  Robert  McNamara  asserted, 
he  had  not  done. 

Permit  me  to  put  it  as  succinctly  as  I  can. 

Robert  McNamara  misled  President  Lyndon  Johnson  and  Robert  McNamara  lied 
to  the  congress.  The  combination  of  these  two  serious  indiscretions  created  condi- 
tions that  led  Vietnamese  Communist  forces  to  prevail  throughout  Viet  Nam. 

If  anyone  has  ever  researched  Defense  Department  documents  from  the  period 
when  Robert  McNamara  was  the  Secretary  of  Defense,  it  is  easy  to  reach  a  conclu- 
sion that  Robert  McNamara  was  a  hands-on  person.  He  got  involved  and  demanded 
a  lot  of  detail.  It  certainly  came  as  no  surprise  that  the  Joint  Chiefs  of  Staff  pre- 
viously top  secret  study  about  our  covert  war  against  North  Viet  Nam  contained  ref- 
erence after  reference  to  events  in  which  Robert  McNamara  was  personally  in- 
volved.1 It  is  clear  that  he  had  an  infatuation  for  numbers  and  details  in  the  pros- 
ecution of  both  the  overt  war  and  the  covert  war. 

Robert  McNamara  wrote  in  his  memoir  that  he  had  not  kept  a  diary.2  I  reasoned 
that  it  took  some  time  for  McNamara  to  pull  together  the  documents  he  needed  and 
most  of  his  sources  of  information  about  the  covert  war  were  missing.  Then,  I  dis- 
covered a  great  disparity  between  the  facts  contained  in  the  July  1970  Joint  Chiefs 
of  Staff  study  of  the  Defense  Department's  effort  in  the  covert  war,  an  exhaustive 
study  in  1969  that  included  38  contemporaneous  oral  histories  dozen  oral  histories 
and  references  by  title  and  file  location  to  hundreds  of  original  official  messages  and 
other  documents  then  in  the  custody  of  the  JCS. 

I  easily  identified  major  discrepancies  in  the  chain  of  events  of  the  covert  war  be- 
tween what  Robert  McNamara  had  written  and  several  thousand  pages  of  25  year 
old  documents.  The  magnitude  of  the  errors  of  fact  persuaded  me  that  neither 
McNamara  nor  those  who  helped  him  pull  together  the  documents  he  needed  to  sup- 
port his  memoir  had  taken  the  time  to  research  the  covert  war  against  North  Viet 
Nam  that  had  been  largely  declassified  in  December  1992.  Had  that  happened,  of 
course,  Robert  McNamara  would  have  been  required  to  reconsider  what  he  planned 
to  write  about  the  covert  war  and  this  might  have  led  him  to  other  revisions  as  well. 

Let  me  put  forth  some  simple  statements  about  the  impact  of  the  United  States 
covert  war  against  North  Viet  Nam,  facts  and  details  that  are  documented  in  "Se- 
cret Army,  Secret  War." 

First,  a  fundamental  counterintelligence  failure  by  the  Central  Intelligence  Agen- 
cy in  the  conduct  of  the  covert  war  against  North  Viet  Nam  during  1960-1964  is 
a  root  cause  of  the  Viet  Nam  War. 

Second,  Robert  McNamara's  successor  covert  operation  through  Operations  Plan 
34A  was  so  fundamentally  flawed  and  subsequently  corrupted  that  it  guaranteed 
that  the  United  States  would  be  drawn  into  a  much  wider  war  along  lines  designed 
by  North  Viet  Nam. 

Third,  Robert  McNamara  gave  knowingly  false  information  to  members  of  the 
U.S.  Senate  about  what  was  happening  in  our  covert  operations  against  North  Viet 

Footnotes  at  end  of  article. 


Nam,  thereby  misleading  the  congress  about  the  actual  covert  war  that  prompted 
the  Gulf  of  Tonkin  incident. 

Allow  me  to  draw  an  easily  understood  parallel  between  the  CIA's  counterintel- 
ligence failures  in  Viet  Nam  and  more  recent  events. 

I  think  that  most  of  us  are  aware  of  Aldridge  Ames,  the  CIA  counterintelligence 
officer  who  worked  for  the  KGB.  Ames's  treachery  cost  U.S.  intelligence  at  least  ten 
agents,  most  of  whom  were  executed  by  the  KGB.  In  terms  of  the  Viet  Nam  conflict, 
we  find  that  similar  CIA  counterintelligence  failures  were  present  here  too. 

Our  covert  war  against  Vietnamese  communist  forces  began  years  before  French 
military  forces  withdrew  from  northern  Viet  Nam  in  1955.  After  1955  it  became  a 
very  low-level  and  low-budget  CIA  covert  operation  piggy-backed  on  the  South  Viet- 
namese. The  CIA's  program  was  designed  to  develop  stay-behind  agents  in  the  event 
that  Communist  forces  prevailed  in  South  Viet  Nam.  Then,  in  November  1960,  CIA 
Saigon  Station  Chief  William  Colby  received  the  National  Security  Council's  ap- 

Eroval  to  begin  sending  teams  of  armed  agents  into  North  Viet  Nam.  The  United 
tates  then  changed  from  using  single  spies  to  embarking  on  a  most  curious  covert 
war  that  was  ostensibly  designed  quietly  to  collect  information  but  instead  sent 
teams  on  missions  that  were  actually  intended  to  draw  the  attention  of  the  North 
Vietnamese  security  services.3  This  would  only  have  been  done  if  the  teams  were 
intended  to  be  captured,  something  no  one  will  admit,  and  was  copied  from  a  pro- 
gram which  had  precisely  that  objective  in  Europe  in  1942-1943. 

Unknown  to  William  Colby,  there  was  a  nest  of  spies  inside  the  South  Vietnamese 
counterpart  of  the  CIA's  covert  operation.  One  of  them  was  Do  Van  Tien,  the  deputy 
chief  of  the  South  Vietnamese  office  that  carried  out  the  Joint  CIA-South  Vietnam- 
ese covert  operations  into  North  Viet  Nam.  Another  was  a  North  Vietnamese  agent 
who  looked  so  appealing  that  the  CIA  agreed  that  he  should  be  recruited,  trained, 
and  sent  back  to  North  Viet  Nam  where  he  operated  on  his  radio  for  roughly  nine 

The  South  Vietnamese  case  officer  who  handled  that  agent,  an  agent  known  as 
ARES,  was  none  other  than  Do  Van  Tien.  Viet  Nam  surfaced  Do  Van  Tien  after  my 
book  "Secret  Army,  Secret  War"  was  published. 

These  were  not  the  only  traitors  within,  there  were  others,  all  permitted  to  oper- 
ate with  impunity  because  of  a  deliberate  effort  to  avoid  sound  counterintelligence 

In  all  fairness  to  everyone  concerned,  we  did  not  have  all  these  facts  some  thirty 
plus  years  ago.  The  double-agent  we  learned  about  in  roughly  August  1985,  the  fact 
that  the  deputy  chief  was  working  for  them  we  just  learned  about  in  August  1995. 
It  has  taken  us  nearly  40  years  to  find  out  these  things  and  that  is  precisely  the 
point;  we  should  have  attempted  to  learn  the  truth  years  ago. 

According  to  the  counterintelligence  professionals  working  in  CIA  at  the  time, 
William  Colby  buried  his  intelligence  head  in  the  sand  and  did  rot  really  look  for 
the  spies.  That  failure  is  a  root  cause  of  the  Viet  Nam  War  that  would  soon  follow 
Colby's  departure  from  Sai  Gon  in  the  summer  of  1962. 5 

Between  1960  and  late  in  1963,  roughly  250  agents  sent  by  the  CIA  and  South 
Viet  Nam  into  North  Viet  Nam  were  lost  in  an  operation  designed,  funded,  and  di- 
rected by  the  CIA.  Not  one  long  range  paramilitary  agent  team  returned,  although 
most  were  designed  to  land  in  North  Viet  Nam  and  remain  there,  undetected,  for 
some  years.  By  the  end  of  1963,  the  CIA  has  lost  nearly  all  its  agents,  informing 
the  Defense  Department  that  a  half  dozen  teams  of  agents  had  made  it  safely  to 
their  target  area  and  were  reporting  by  radio  from  deep  inside  North  Viet  Nam.6 

One  problem  though;  no  one  knew  at  the  time  was  that  all  the  teams  working 
their  radios  from  North  Viet  Nam  had  been  captured  and  the  team  radio  operators 
were  working  for  North  Viet  Nam's  Ministry  of  Public  Security  Counterespionage 
Directorate.  Analysis  of  information  the  CIA  provided  to  the  Pentagon  confirms  the 
CIA  was  fully  aware  that  most  teams  it  landed  inside  North  Viet  Nam  during  1961- 
1962  were  captured  and  the  CIA  engaged  in  "radio  play"  with  the  team  radio  opera- 
tors forced  to  transmit  under  duress.7  This  should  have  sent  loud  warnings  that  the 
CIA's  operation  into  North  View  Nam  was  encountering  a  well-prepared  hostile 
counterespionage  force  employing  the  same  highly  successful  counterespionage  tech- 
niques employed  against  the  CIA  across  Eastern  Europe  a  decade  earlier. 

William  Colby  acknowledges  these  failures  were  brought  to  his  attention  in  1963. 
But,  by  then  it  was  too  late,  the  die  was  cast,  and  any  suspicions  held  by  individual 
CIA  officers  fell  victim  to  Washington's  politics. 

In  1963  the  CIA  literally  flooded  North  Viet  Nam  with  teams  of  paramilitary 
agents.  They  were  all  captured,  usually  by  North  Vietnamese  forces  waiting  on  the 
ground.  But,  those  few  teams  the  CIA  viewed  as  viable,  transmitting  essentially 
worthless  information  from  deep  inside  North  Viet  Nam,  created  an  illusion  that  a 
covert  war  against  North  Viet  Nam  was  a  sustainable  notion.8 


In  November  1963,  McNamara  met  in  Hawaii  with  senior  CIA  officials.  According 
to  McNamara's  memoir,  this  was  the  first  time  the  covert  operation  was  raised.  In 
fact,  as  well  documented  by  William  Colby  and  the  Joint  Chiefs  of  Staff  official  docu- 
ments, this  was  the  meeting  when  John  McCone,  the  CIA  Director,  and  Robert 
McNamara,  the  Defense  Secretary,  were  to  hammer  out  transferring  the  CIA's  cov- 
ert northern  program  to  the  Pentagon.  Colby  insists  he  informed  McNamara  that 
the  covert  operation  would  not  work.  What  William  Colby  apparently  did  not  tell 
the  Defense  Secretary  was  the  fact  that  the  CIA  had  effectively  inhibited  any  coun- 
terespionage review  of  the  entire  operation. 

In  December  1963,  Robert  McNamara  met  with  President  Johnson.  He  asked  the 
president  to  approve  the  Defense  Department's  takeover  of  the  CIA's  covert  program 
against  North  Viet  Nam,  convincing  the  president  that  the  Pentagon  could  put  more 
muscle  into  the  program  than  the  CIA  and  use  the  resources  to  be  committed  under 
the  plan  to  send  a  message  to  North  Viet  Nam.  That  message  was  that  through  in- 
creasing sabotage  and  eventually  air  strikes,  North  Viet  Nam  could  be  persuaded 
to  rethink  its  infiltration  of  South  Viet  Nam.  Such  notions  were  sheer  lunacy  in 
1964  and  they  are  even  more  absurd  today,  given  the  pitifully  small  resources  actu- 
ally employed. 

The  president  approved  Robert  McNamara's  recommendations.  Over  Christmas 
and  New  Year's  of  1963,  senior  staff  hammered  out  the  framework  for  McNamara's 
Plan  34A.  This  was  a  successor  to  Plan  34  previously  developed  by  William  Colby. 

Before  examining  what  happened  next,  it  is  important  to  examine  Robert 
McNamara's  recounting  of  his  previous  brush  with  CIA  covert  operations  at  the 
time  of  the  mid- 1961  Bay  of  Pigs  disaster.  As  McNamara  recounted  in  his  memoir, 
he  went  to  President  Kennedy  in  the  summer  of  1961  and  offered  to  accept  the 
blame  for  the  failure  at  the  Bay  of  Pigs.  McNamara  describes  admitting  he  had  be- 
come a  silent  and  uncritical  observer  to  what  he,  McNamara,  considered  a  CIA  oper- 
ation for  which  the  Joint  Chiefs  of  Staff  had  gone  on  record  as  claiming  it  could 
well  lead  to  an  overthrow  of  Castro.9  Thus,  for  Operations  Plan  34  and  34A,  McNa- 
mara was  no  longer  an  uncritical  observer  unaware  of  the  plan  and  unable  to  chal- 
lenge any  aspect  of  it.  He  was,  after  all,  the  manager  of  the  implementation  of  Plan 
34A.  He  had  ample  opportunity  to  learn  from  the  mistakes  of  1961.  He  did  not  and 
today  seems  incapable  of  understanding  that  failing. 

McNamara  writes  in  his  memoir  that  this  was  a  CIA-supported  operation.  McNa- 
mara is  wrong;  the  president  approved  Plan  34A  to  be  Robert  McNamara's  Pentagon 
sponsored  program. 

From  the  end  of  December  1963  through  January  1964,  McNamara  was  up  to  his 
elbows  in  a  series  of  very  high  level  actions  that  included  formation  of  a  military 
special  operations  group  in  Saigon  on  24  January  1964.  This  group,  known  initially 
as  the  Military  Assistance  Command  Special  Operations  Group  (MACSOG),  later  re- 
named the  Military  Assistance  Command  Studies  and  Observations  Group,  took 
over  at  least  169  paramilitary  agents  whose  morale  had  crumpled  and  six  teams  of 
agents  transmitting  from  deep  inside  North  Viet  Nam. 

The  agents  concluded  that  the  United  States  had  a  hand  in  the  Diem  coup,  rea- 
soning that  if  the  United  States  was  willing  to  dispose  of  their  president,  the  United 
States  could  easily  get  rid  of  the  contract  agents.  The  Joint  Chiefs  of  Staff  study 
confirms  the  agent's  fears  were  well  founded. 

The  first  U.S.  Army  commander  of  the  special  operations  group  did  just  that;  he 
got  rid  of  them  by  dropping  them  over  North  Viet  Nam  with  no  hope  they  would 
accomplish  the  missions  assigned  them.  The  colonel  explained  that  he  had  to  get 
rid  of  the  agents.  He  was  afraid  to  release  them  inside  South  Viet  Nam  where  they 
might  divulge  details  about  the  United  States  covert  war  against  North  Viet  Nam. 
In  reality,  Communist  North  Viet  Nam  had  been  reporting  for  five  years  the  capture 
of  most  of  the  teams  it  did  not  coopt  and  press  into  service  as  turned  teams.  The 
CIA  and  Pentagon  were  aware  of  this  reporting  through  the  foreign  Broadcast  Infor- 
mation Service  monitoring  of  North  Vietnamese  press  releases,  information  kept 
from  the  next-of-kin  of  agents  reported  or  killed. 

What  the  colonel  had  to  have  known  was  that  the  CIA  arranged  for  nearly  every 
team  MACSOG  deployed  to  North  Viet  Nam  to  be  landed  in  extreme  northwestern 
North  Viet  Nam  adjacent  to  Sam  Neua  Province,  Laos,  or  adjacent  to  Xieng 
Khouang  Province,  Laos,  where  the  CIA  intended  the  teams  would  function  as  an 
early  warning  screen  to  report  about  Communist  forces  entering  North  Laos.  These 
teams  parachuted  into  this  area  to  reinforce  teams  the  North  Vietnamese  had  cap- 
tured three  years  earlier  and  whatever  information  came  from  them  was  obviously 
disinformation.  A  detailed  analysis  of  the  agent  team  landing  sites  confirms  the 
team  had  missions  that  did  not  relate  any  infiltration  toward 

South  Viet  Nam,  their  missions  were  limited  solely  toward  North  Laos.  This  means 
that  at  the  Washington  level  and  within  three  months  of  the  president's  approval 


34  illlll 

3  9999  05983  954  6 

to  transfer  the  operation  from  CIA  to  the  Pentagon,  the  national  intelligence  com- 
munity effectively  emasculated  the  forces  designed  to  send  an  ineffective  message 
to  Ha  Noi  and  annulled  the  purpose  of  Operations  Plan  34A.  It  is  unclear  if  the 
president  was  aware  of  this  technical  change. 

Between  the  spring  of  1964  and  October  1967,  MACSOG  lost  240  more  agents  in- 
side North  Viet  Nam  and  scores  of  agents  in  adjacent  Laos  and  Cambodia.10  Once 
again,  it  included  the  entire  long  range  agent  team  force  sent  into  North  Viet  Nam. 
There  is  no  hard  evidence  that  anyone  within  MACSOG  was  seriously  suggesting 
that  the  entire  operation  be  cancelled.  In  fact,  when  the  South  Vietnamese  appealed 
to  MACSOG  to  end  the  farce,  MACSOG  pressured  the  South  Vietnamese  to  con- 

The  Joint  Chiefs  of  Staff  documents  also  confirm  that  in  the  spring  of  1966, 
MACSOG  embarked  on  a  five-year  program  to  quietly  declare  all  the  agents  essen- 
tially dead,  paying  the  families  death  benefits,  and  erasing  the  secret  army  from  the 
rolls.  In  1973,  U.S.  officials  in  South  Viet  Nam  reporting  to  the  Defense  Intelligence 
Agency  learned  that  hundreds  of  agents  were  still  alive  in  North  Viet  Nam,  sud- 
denly terminated  the  interrogation  of  the  sources  who  brought  this  information  to 
South  Viet  Nam. 

Almost  300  agents  came  out  of  prison  alive  in  the  1980s  and  their  former  com- 
manders, both  Vietnamese  and  American,  largely  pretended  they  did  not  exist.  If 
that  is  how  we  treated  our  allies,  it  should  come  as  no  surprise  that  we  did  not  do 
as  well  as  hoped  against  our  enemies.  Robert  McNamara  recounts  none  of  these 
facts  in  his  memoir. 

McNamara  recounts  a  wailing  and  gnashing  of  teeth  in  1964  at  the  time  of  the 
Gulf  of  Tonkin  incident,  officials  saying  that  everyone  had  made  this  great  mis- 
calculation in  1964.  I  ask  you  stop  and  think  about  this  for  a  minute,  considering 
facts  that  were  very,  very  well  known  at  the  time,  most  of  it  information  someone 
could  learn  from  reading  the  newspaper. 

North  Viet  Nam  had  been  telling  its  people  for  years  that  the  United  States  was 
waging  a  war  in  South  Viet  Nam  and  had  turned  the  South  into  a  colony.  To  urge 
public  acceptance  of  their  propaganda,  North  Vietnamese  security  officials  referred 
to  the  captured  agents  as  "American  commandos,"  their  presence  in  the  North  being 
portrayed  as  evidence  that  the  U.S.  military  was  really  involved  in  and  fomenting 
the  war.  Some  people  up  North  believed  them  and  some  did  not.  In  fact,  Ha  Noi 
was  aware  that  it  was  initially  a  CIA  operation  and  it  was  not  military  as  reported 
to  its  own  people.  What  Ha  Noi  lacked  in  its  northern  homeland  was  credible  evi- 
dence of  a  directed  U.S.  military  involvement. 

One  problem  with  what  North  Viet  Nam  was  claiming  was  that  there  were  rel- 
atively few  U.S.  military  there  in  the  very  early  1960s,  no  ground  combat  troops  to 
speak  of,  and  a  lot  of  people  knew  that  what  Hanoi  was  saying  was  not  all  that 
true.  But,  North  Viet  Nam  had  promised  the  Vietnamese  that  Communism  was  the 
vision  and  that  vision  was  getting  more  and  more  distant.  After  all,  North  Viet  Nam 
historically  had  insufficient  food  to  feed  its  own  people,  relying  on  the  southern  rice 
bowl  to  feed  the  north,  and  no  real  military  hardware  with  which  to  prosecute  a 
war  in  South  Viet  Nam. 

Thus,  in  the  world  of  1964,  the  CIA  and  Pentagon  knew  they  were  losing  all  their 
agents  but  did  not  discover  why  this  was  happening.  As  the  Pentagon  prepared  to 
take  over  the  covert  operation  from  the  CIA,  an  operation  that  by  all  appearances 
was  winding  down,  not  up,  Robert  McNamara  began  to  tell  the  world  that  the  Unit- 
ed States  would  reduce  our  forces  in  Viet  Nam,  not  increase  them.  The  agent  teams 
were  reporting  from  North  Viet  Nam  that  they  had  recruited  more  agents  and  were 
conducting  the  sabotage  asked  of  them,  even  asking  for  more  reinforcements  and 
supplies.  Other  Communist  countries  had  been  supportive  of  the  North  Vietnamese, 
stopping  far  short  of  giving  their  fraternal  Communist  brethren  in  Ha  Noi  a  blank 
check  for  the  military  hardware  it  required  to  prosecute  a  war  in  South  Viet  Nam. 

Thus,  when  American  destroyers  began  conducting  intelligence  missions  in  the 
Gulf  of  Tonkin  and  the  North  Vietnamese  knew  the  U.S.  would  attack  the  North 
if  U.S.  forces  were  attacked,  it  does  not  take  a  rocket  scientist  to  realize  that  we 
were  heading  toward  a  situation  where  it  would  not  take  much  to  provoke  us  to  at- 
tack. And,  once  we  did  attack,  the  North  Vietnamese  could  sit  back  and  tell  the 
world  "See,  we  told  you  so."  And  that  is,  of  course,  precisely  what  happened.  It  is 
with  this  historic  background  that  McNamara's  claimed  wailing  and  gnashing  of 
teeth  seems  rather  hollow. 

I  believe  most  of  us  are  aware  that  the  USS  Maddox  was  attacked  by  three  North 
Vietnamese  motor  torpedo  boats  on  2  August  1964.  On  4  August  the  Maddox  had 
been  joined  by  the  USS  Turner  Joy  and  reported  that  it  was  again  under  attack. 
There  was  some  doubt  that  an  attack  had  actually  taken  place  and  every  one  seems 
to  have  assumed  it  was  the  North  Vietnamese.  Enough  senior  officials  in  Washing- 


ton  and  Hawaii  thought  that  an  attack  had  taken  place,  that  McNamara  met  with 
selected  senators  and  reassured  them  that  there  was  a  belief  that  a  second  attack 
had  occurred.  But,  for  the  past  31  years  there  has  been  considerable  debate  about 
whether  there  had  really  been  an  attack  by  the  Viet  Nam  People's  Navy  on  4  Au- 

Two  years  later  I  received  what  had  all  the  appearances  of  credible  information 
indicating  that  the  Viet  Nam  People's  Navy  did  not  attack  on  4  August,  suggesting 
that  the  Chinese  People's  Navy  could  have  conducted  the  attack,  supporting  the  Viet 
Nam  People's  Navy  as  they  had  done  in  July  1963  during  a  day-long  mission 
against  maritime  operations  boat  crew  Nautilus  7.  But,  rather  than  demanding  that 
we  learn  the  truth,  the  Pacific  Command  took  a  rather  different  approach,  some- 
thing I  believe  Robert  McNamara  may  have  forgotten. 

On  5  July  1966  I  was  part  of  a  two-man  U.S.  Army  team  assigned  to  interrogate 
19  North  Vietnamese  Navy  prisoners  capture  four  days  earlier  in  the  Gulf  of  Ton- 
kin. The  senior  prisoner  was  Senior  Captain  Tran  Boa,  Chief  of  Staff  of  the  135th 
Motor  Torpedo  Boat  Squadron.  Bao  admitted  his  unit  had  attacked  on  2  August  but 
stated  emphatically  that  North  Viet  Nam  had  not  attacked  on  4  August.  When  that 
word  was  flashed  by  the  boat  that  was  serving  as  our  interrogation  center,  the  7th 
Fleet  came  back  with  a  message  that  we  were  "Not,  Repeat  Not"  to  debrief  further 
concerning  the  gulf  of  Tonkin  incident. 

I  had  already  asked  Bao  to  defend  his  statement  that  his  navy  did  not,  and  indeed 
could  not  have,  attacked  the  Maddox  on  4  August.  Bao  obliged.  I  will  not  go  into 
the  details  here;  you  can  read  about  it  in  "Secret  Army,  Secret  War."  I  am  sure  it 
is  just  a  coincidence  that  when  a  congressional  inquiry  looked  into  the  Gulf  of  Ton- 
kin incident  about  a  year  and  a  half  later,  all  19  North  Vietnamese  Navy  POWs 
were  suddenly  sent  back  to  North  Viet  Nam.  At  the  end  of  1990  I  had  a  chance 
to  read  the  final  report  of  the  7th  Fleet  Exploitation  team  to  which  we  were  as- 
signed in  July  1966  and  I  found  that  all  references  to  the  August  1964  attacks  were 
missing  from  the  team  final  report.11 

Lastly  we  have  my  third  area,  false  statements  to  the  Congress. 

In  his  memoir  released  in  the  spring  of  1995,  Robert  McNamara  recounts  his  tes- 
timony on  6  August  1964  before  a  joint  executive  session  of  the  Senate  Foreign  Rela- 
tions and  Armed  Services  committees,  urging  support  for  the  administration  and 
what  has  become  known  to  history  as  the  Gulf  of  Tonkin  Resolution.  McNamara 
writes:  "In  reply  [to  Sen.  Wayne  Morse]  I  said  "Our  Navy  played  absolutely  no  part 
in,  was  not  associated  with,  [and]  was  not  aware  of  any  South  Vietnamese  actions." 
As  I  have  explained,  the  U.S.  Navy  did  not  administer  34A  operations,  and  the 
DESOTO  patrols  had  neither  been  a  "cover"  for  nor  stood  by  as  a  "backstop"  for  34A 
vessels.  Senator  Morse  knew  these  facts,  for  he  had  been  present  on  August  3  when 
Dean  [Rusk],  [Gen.]  Bus  [Wheeler]  and  I  briefed  senators  on  34A  and  the  DESOTO 
patrols.  That  portion  of  my  reply  was  correct."12 

NcNamara  also  writes:  "Critics.  *  *  *charge  that  the  administration  coveted  con- 
gressional support  for  the  war  in  Indochina  *  *  *  and  presented  false  statements 
to  enlist  such  support.  The  charges  are  unfounded."13 

It  is  not  I  who  argues  that  Robert  McNamara  lied  to  the  Congress,  it  is  the  his- 
tory of  the  maritime  operations  element  of  MACSOG  as  contained  in  the  Joint 
Chiefs  of  Staff  previously  top  secret  study,  the  oral  histories  of  the  CIA  officers  who 
directed  the  covert  maritime  operations  using  U.S.  Navy  SEALs  as  the  trainers,  and 
the  oral  histories  of  the  Americans  and  South  Vietnamese  who  rode  on  those  boats. 
The  fact  is  that  Robert  McNamara  was  aware  that  MACSOG  controlled  the  north- 
ern maritime  operations  with  funding  for  them  approved  by  the  U.S.  House  of  Rep- 
resentatives and  packaged  within  the  U.S.  Navy's  annual  budget.  It  logically  follows 
that  such  false  statements  could  well  have  played  a  decisive  role  in  enlisting  con- 
gressional support  for  the  Gulf  of  Tonkin  Resolution,  Robert  McNamara's  assertion 
to  the  contrary  notwithstanding. 

I  want  to  close  with  two  critical  questions  for  Robert  McNamara: 

Why  were  you  less  than  straight  forward  31  years  ago  and  why  are  you  still  not 
telling  it  "like  it  really  was'? 


1  Joint  Chiefs  of  Staff,  MACSOG  Documentation  Study,  10  July  1970.  The  document  released 
by  the  Defense  Department's  Central  Documentation  Office  to  the  author  on  24  December  1992 
is  located  in  the  author's  investigator  files  maintained  in  the  legislative  files  portion  of  the  Na- 
tional Archives,  Washington,  DC. 


2  Robert  S.  McNamara,  In  Retrospect,  387. 

3  Sedgwick  Tourison,  Secret  Army,  Secret  War— Washington's  Tragic  Spy  Operation  in  North 
Vietnam,  Naval  Institute  Press,  1995. 

4  Author's   interview   with  South  Vietnamese  former  commando,  September   1995,  Crofton, 

5 Tourison,  Secret  Army,  Secret  War,  56-58. 

6 Tourison,  Secret  Army,  Secret  War,  Appendix  1,  10. 

7  Ibid. 

8  Ibid. 

9  McNamara,  in  Retrospect,  25/27. 

10 Tourison,  Secret  Army,  Secret  War,  326. 

"United  States  Pacific  Fleet,  Seventh  Fleet,  Final  Report  of  SEVENTH  Fleet  Exploitation  of 
North  Vietnamese  PT  Boat  Personnel  (U),  9  August  1966. 

12  McNamara,  137. 

13  Ibid. 


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